KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee woman, who lost over $20,000 on a pontoon boat that was supposed to be delivered nearly three months ago, is telling people to beware of fake online auction sites.
For over a year, Kelly searched websites looking for a pontoon boat she and her family could enjoy on the lake. She asked not to use her last name.
In early summer, she was steered to Facebook and to an online bank repo site that auctioned boats. A 24-foot Suncatcher with 130 hours on it came up.
“We found one on here and we bid on it. We won the bid. We were excited. The name of the company is Milent Repo,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s bid on the boat was $21,000.
“It’s pretty. Lovely boat, it will fit all of us, the grandkids. They wanted a wire transfer, only,” Kelly said. “It says it right here. No Pay Pal, no credit card, or anything.”
June 27 was the delivery date for the boat. The payment by wire transfer was likely picked up moments after she sent it.
“Yes, that threw a red flag. I know better, but I did it, I did it, and that’s it. It’s gone,” Kelly said.
Doing some research Kelly discovered her 24-footer on another bank repo site, apparently a legitimate one.
“Same picture. Same boat. Non-existent boat, [to] be clear. Non-existent boat, they changed nothing,” Kelly said.
Wanting to find out more about Kelly’s boat, WATE reached out to Milent Repo, but no one picked up. Don Dare left his name and number in a voicemail. The address for Milent Repo is the Colorado Center in Denver. Dare called the management office.
“Milent Repo has never been a tenant. We have been getting a lot of spam calls,” the management office said on the phone. “I believe it was a scam because they were never a tenant in any of our buildings.”
“There is no company in Colorado. The IP address I looked up goes to Iceland,” Kelly said.
The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about this type of scam, be careful before bidding on anything. Be suspicious if you have to wire money, especially for a big-ticket item, in online auctions. Also, dig a little deeper. Visit Whois.com and find the registered domain name or URL. There is no charge for searches.
“If I can prevent one person from having to go through what I have been through, the money loss, the heart loss, just anything. The obsession that it took me through to try to stop this, the embarrassment is worth it. It truly is,” Kelly said.
“Where was your big mistake?” Dare asked.
“Wiring the money. Never wire money. Never wire money. Never. It’s gone, it’s gone,” Kelly said.
Consumer advocates say never pay with a wire transfer. Federal agencies say legitimate businesses don’t request wire transfers, but scammers do. Once you provide the confirmation number, a Western Union or MoneyGram transfer can be picked up anywhere in the world making it hard to trace for law enforcement.
This is the first time WATE reported a pontoon boat on a fake website. In the past, they’ve been cars and trucks, advertised at “too good to be true” prices, on Craigslist or eBay.