Online used car ad scam targets Roanoke woman

Why the scam was so convincing and expert advice on detecting scams

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - One area woman narrowly avoided losing more than a thousand dollars after realizing she was about to be scammed. A 10 News Crime Tracker report looked at a scam that could seem convincing.

Roanoke resident Jerri Heenan wants to buy a used van. She recently found what she thought was a good deal online.

She emailed back and forth with the seller, who was asking her to pay using eBay cards that you can buy at a grocery or drug store.

She says she didn’t go through with it, and she’s grateful for two friends of hers, who told her the deal might not be legitimate.

“I’ve always prided myself in being so cautious,” Heenan said. “I don’t know what happened here.”

An eBay representative confirmed to WSLS 10 that it was a scam. EBay doesn’t use its cards for cars. It makes it too easy for scammers.

The seller told Heenan the car was her husband’s, and he died recently.

“I thought that was a safety net for her,” Heenan said. “She doesn’t have to deal with a lot of strangers. It seemed believable.”

The seller claimed to be in Tucson, Arizona, and claimed to want to ship the van to Roanoke.
Heenan never talked to the seller over the phone.

“There’s always an excuse as to why they can’t meet you face to face, then no matter how good of a deal it is, I would go ahead and move on,” said Scott Leamon, a Roanoke Police Department crime prevention specialist.

Police say services like Craigslist and eBay are generally good about preventing scams. They don’t want their customers to fall victim. You can always check their safety guidelines.

The Better Business Bureau wants to hear from you if someone tries to scam you. BBB staff members track cases. They say be careful with anyone who wants to ship you something.

“That's the red flag,” said Julie Wheeler, who’s president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Virginia. “They don't have it to sell or it is not as it's represented.”

There are many safe places to meet for buys like these, including the Roanoke Police Department’s lobby.

Heenan is still looking for a new van. She says now she’s more aware of the dangers.

10 News Crime Tracker reports will air Mondays and Wednesdays on WSLS 10. If you have a story idea, you can send Tommy Lopez an email at or reach out to him on his Facebook page.

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