Attorney general warns of classified ad scam

FRANKFORT — The Attorney General’s office is warning of a new scam appearing in Kentucky newspaper classified ads and online.

Kentuckians in several counties including Bath, Barren, Franklin and Jefferson have reported replying to classified ads for a deeply discounted John Deere tractor, Toyota or Chevrolet pickup truck that turned out to be a scam.

The classified ad appears normal and includes a price for the item as well as a contact phone number. Once an interested buyer places a call, however, they do not speak with anyone, but rather start receiving text messages or emails from a purported Air Force Sergeant “Molly Carter” stationed at Cavalier AFB in North Dakota.

“Carter” claims she is selling the item at a deep discount because it belonged to her late husband, and she is leaving soon for an overseas deployment and cannot afford to keep it. “Carter” even offers to send detailed photos of the items and guarantees delivery once she receives payment.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office has also verified with the Cavalier Air Force Base that a “Sergeant Molly Carter” is not a member of its installation. The military base also confirmed that it has received multiple complaints from across the country reporting the same scheme.

“This scammer tells one of the cruelest stories we have heard,” Beshear said. “They lie about the death of a spouse and service to our country, to profit off hard-working Kentucky families. While my office is working to track down this con artist, I want Kentuckians to be aware and avoid falling victim to this woeful scheme.”

Beshear said while the current scam reports identify the name “Sergeant Molly Carter,” scammers constantly take on new identities and develop new plots, which is why verifying online private sellers is always tricky.

The AG’s office and the Kentucky Press Association are working together to ensure all Kentucky newspapers are constantly on the alert for any kind of advertising that could be fraudulent and detrimental to their readers.

To help Kentuckians avoid falling victim to this type of scam, the Office of the Attorney General offers these initial tips:

· Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices.

If a price of a product seems too good to be true, it probably is. Compare prices of identical goods online in order to see if you are getting a good deal verses being duped. For vehicle sales, request copies of titles and local tax receipts to help confirm the seller and vehicle’s legitimacy, and obtain the VIN number and run a vehicle history report.

· Research the seller and attempt to view the product in person.

Research the seller online and reject high-pressure sales tactics. Ask the seller if they are willing to meet you in a safe location to view the product in person – if they are unwilling, this is a warning sign that it could be a scam.

· Only use verified methods of payment.

Never wire money, use gift cards or reloadable cards, reputable sellers and companies do not use these methods of payment. You may also verify with the sales website if you are unsure of whether to proceed with the transaction.

Kentuckians who want assistance verifying a scam or reporting a scam can contact the Office of the Attorney General at 888-432-9257 or file a consumer complaint.