Scam artists pretending to be Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers are hocking cars on the web with deals that sound too good to be true.
Officials at Lewis-McChord received several calls last week from would-be buyers who grew suspicious about claims made on web sites such as craigslist and cars.com.
The ads show off different cars – one is a 2003 Audi; another is a 2006 Dodge Ram – but they share a suspicious request to pay for them immediately through an Amazon-related web site.
In one of them, a woman claiming to be Sgt. Sarah Harper says she has an Audi ready to be delivered within four days for someone willing to pay for the car right away.
“I have dropped my price to $4,950 (purchase price) including delivery and handling to your address since this is an Urgent Sale! I need to sell it before 17th February, when I will be deployed in Afghanistan with my platoon replacing the troops scheduled to come home,” she says.
In a follow-up email, the scammer sent a doctored driver’s license and a false military identification card. She refuses to send a copy of the car’s title because of “privacy laws.” The license and military ID have a few giveaways showing them to be false, but they could pass muster at first glance.
No one by Harper’s name is enlisted in the Army, Lewis-McChord spokesman Joe Piek said.
He said the number of calls about car scams last week was unusual, but he was heartened by the fact that potential buyers checked with the Army before sending money to the scammers.
“It’s really unfortunate that people are posing as soldiers to tug on people’s heart strings,” he said.
Civilians can use basic information – last name, first name, birth month, birth year – to see if someone claiming to be an active-duty soldier really is in the Army. Those records are available at the Defense Manpower Data Center.
Earlier this year, the Defense Department drew attention to so-called romance scams in which con artists co-opted the identities of well know Lewis-McChord soldiers to pull money out of women wanting to help soldiers in trouble. Lewis-McChord senior commander Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti was among the soldiers whose identities were manipulated for the scams.