A variation on a Nigerian wire scam apparently is targeting automobile repair shops in the Medford area. Using a stolen credit card, the scammers say they want to have a car towed to the repair shop, but need the shop to wire money to pay for the towing.
Russ Sanger from Specialized Automotive in Medford said he was confronted with the possible scam after receiving a phone call from what appeared to be a hearing-impaired person using a telecommunication service.
"They give you a credit card number to get a car towed from out of state," Sanger said. "I said I didn't want to do it. There are a lot of other ways to go about getting it towed."
Kate Medema, spokeswoman from the consumer protection division at the Oregon Attorney General's office, said her office has heard of such scams but has received no reports confirming any cases in Oregon.
"We are not aware of any Oregon victims," she said.
The consumer protection department generally deals with consumer complaints against businesses, so it may be that no businesses reported any incidents of the scam to her office.
Medema said the people involved in the scams often use telecommunication devices because they have foreign accents. The scammers give a stolen credit card number that has not yet been reported as stolen to an automobile business, such as a transmission shop. They then ask the shop owner to run the card and wire some money to another party located elsewhere, who they say will have the car shipped to the automobile shop.
"The shop is a conduit," Medema said. "Basically, they'll never deliver the car."
The situation leaves the automobile-shop merchants with an uncollectible credit card debt and the expense for the money wired.
In addition, sometimes the scam artists call back and say they had some trouble getting the car towed, and then offer the shop $300 for its trouble, Medema said. But by that time, the money has been wired and the scam artist receiving the money is long gone.
To be safe, Medema said, "if someone wants you to wire money, you should be skeptical."
For complaints about businesses including scams, call the attorney general's consumer hotline at 877-877-9392 or contact the state Department of Justice online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.