WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was supposed to be a simple online transaction: A seller with an auto part and a buyer who offered to pay for it. But the buyer in this case had something else in mind.
The internet is a great way to buy and sell almost anything — even a car bumper.
" I sold him the bumper and two or three days later, he opened a PayPal claim stating the bumper was missing a front grill," recalled fraud victim Muhammad Ikbal.
Ikbal's ad for the bumper never said the grill was included. The $3,000 price tag was simply for the bumper. Still, Ikbal was prepared to make it right.
"Send me the bumper back and once I receive the bumper I'll send you the money back," Ikbal told the buyer.
Nine days later, Ikbal received the a tracking number and a notice the package arrived. He went to the post office to pick it up and quickly realized it was not the bumper he sent.
"The box was 2x2 and weighed one pound," Ikbal said.
Ikbal knew something wasn't right. So he contacted postal inspectors.
"It was basically a race. What the scammer was hoping is he could deceive Muhammad into returning the money before he realized there was no bumper in route," said U.S. Postal Inspector Tom Oullette.
The scam was working.
"He picked a random priority box, filled it with a huge stack of newspapers and presented it to the post office to get a tracking number," Oullette said.
In fact, PayPal returned the money to buyer based on the bogus tracking number showing the boxes arrived.
"The buyer had no intention of sending the bumper back. What he was really hoping to do is keep the bumper and get his money back," Oullette explained.
Postal inspectors learned the scam artist had been involved in similar schemes.