Saturday, August 14, 2010
The White Van Scam
I did not list this in my "Scams" article, which I will update. It is a scam or gag that has been going on for decades, and the Police will do nothing to stop it, as technically, the people perpetrating the scam are doing nothing illegal.
The scam goes like this:
You are approached by two young dudes in a white van (usually) and they say, "Hey Buddy! Want to buy a set of speakers, for cheap?"
They then go into a spiel about how they are delivering speakers for some company and ended up with an "extra" set. If they take them back, they say, "The boss will just keep them" so they offer you these $2000 speakers (or $4000 "home theater system") for a mere $500. Or $200 if you talk them down.
They show you receipts and invoices and catalogs that claim the speakers or the system is worth a ton of dough. They might even have a website to show you on your iPhone! But the brand is not one you have heard of.
You get the system home, and of course, it is garbage. The speaker cabinets are little more than cardboard covered with wood-grain sheeting. The speakers are tiny and sound awful. The whole deal might be worth $20-$50, if that. You've been scammed.
Why is this not illegal? Well, for starters, all they've done, like most con artists, is overcharge you for some goods. Overpricing things is not illegal in America.
And like most good con-men, they have hoodwinked you into buying them by insinuating that they are basically stolen merchandise. The speakers "fell off the truck" so to speak, and you are getting a good deal! It sounds so good (and illegal) that you fail to engage your usual skepticism.
This site has a list of scam victims going back for years. Wikipedia even has a listing for it. I was first approached by these clowns back in the 1980's. It is a robust scam! Of course, they have updated the scam for the new century by calling it a "home theater system" and not just speakers.
The people who do these scams are pretty much the lowest of low life. When you tell them you know it is a scam, they often will scream at you, spit at you, or even threaten violence. If approached by such individuals, I would walk away as quickly as possible, perhaps run.
Again, reporting this scam seems to have little effect - and it clearly is an organized ring doing this. This is America, after all, and ripping people off is a way of life.
Since most people are taken for only a few hundred dollars, and since most people are too ashamed to admit they've been had, the incidence of this scam is far greater than you might think.
Like anything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When someone offers to sell you something out of a van, forgetaboutit!