Be aware of online scams because sometimes you get to be an example to others of what not to do.
This is one of those times. This might be a bit long. Go get some popcorn.
I’ve been on GTT for 5 months now, joining 1 month before getting my 1025R. One of the things I did not get with the purchase was a set of pallet forks and a frame. Main reason being that I was given a set of Rankin clamp-on bucket forks. For various reasons I have decided I want to go with pallet forks and a frame instead (and sell the Rankin's eventually).
So I posted in the Wanted to Buy forum that I…well…wanted to buy a frame and forks, 42” and of course the JDQA system for attaching to my H120 loader.
I titled the post” 42" Pallet Forks and frame”
A day or so later I got a notice that “Ronald001” (I’m using quotes only the first time I use someone’s “name” here) has invited me to a conversation about the forks.
"Email steve in Ashland he has a 42" Pallet Forks and frame for sale. Here's his email [email protected]
So I emailed “Steve Matthew”.
A few red flags in hindsight here:
- A private conversation, outside of the forum, and away from other people’s watchful eyes.
- Slightly wrong grammar. “he has a 42” Pallet Forks and frame for sale." instead of “he has a set of 42” pallet forks and a frame for sale.” Note that what Ronald wrote was exactly what I had titled (Pallet Forks is capitalized and frame is not). “steve” is not capitalized either.
In hindsight as well, had I used google to search for the text of Ronald’s conversation I would have see that the same text, verbatim, had been used several other sites and "he" has been flagged as a scammer on some (but not all) of the forums.
I’m north of Seattle and had assumed that “Ashland” was Ashland, Oregon. Later, in emailing “Steve” he’s supposedly in Ashland, Virginia. I figured in my mind that Ashland, Oregon was close enough to drive if necessary.
I was eager for a good deal and was away from my computer for what followed. Both of which were mistakes on my part.
I was spending the next two days evaluating the condition of school buildings in Seattle, so all I could do is see photos and send emails via my phone. I also was always on the move and had to steal moments away from work to communicate with Steve. Again, a private conversation away from knowledgeable and helpful watching eyes.
I sent Steve the same message as in the Wanted To Buy forum, plus “Ronald said you have 42" forks and a frame for sale. I'm wondering what you have for sale, what you'd like to get for it, and what would be the best (most cost efficient) way to get them from you to me. I'm about an hour north of Seattle and there's a nearby Fastenal.”
He said he did have a set of 42” pallet forks that he was willing to sell to me for $350, including shipping. This seemed reasonable to me for a used set. I wasn’t looking for new, just good, and not a project.
I won’t bore you with the back and forth but Steve wasn’t eager to sell and seemed a bit grumpy. Ronald was a bit more pushy, making sure I knew that Steve was an honest man. And honestly, my eagerness was helping a bit too much. The first picture Steve sent was using a SSQA system. He got offended when I pointed out it would not work on my H120, reminding me that he has been working with tractors a long time. I pointed out a couple of more times that he, respectfully, was wrong. Finally he sent a picture of a Titan forks and frame set with the JDQA system. Success! Exactly what I was wanting and a little better than I had hoped. He kept blaming delays in communication on his office manager.
Again, doing all this from the tiny screen on my phone I agreed to the deal and I asked about Paypal or Zelle.
“I think I 'll prefer Zelle so as to get it shipp fast without no form of delay. But i am not set up with zelle but my secretary set up with that. Here is the Zelle to pay to.
Let me know once you done with payment i ll send you the tracking number and relevant shipping information once your payment is confirm.”
We agreed to use Zelle for sending funds. My wife has used Zelle for sending money to relatives. This was my first time with it. He got pushy about receiving the money, wanting to know when it was sent. I was working through the process and asked him for the recipient name, phone number, and email. He wrote again:
“Okay. Sorry about that but my secretary is not available to answer quickly. You can just make the payment here now.
I wrote back that Zelle was requiring a phone number too. So he replied:
“Here is the number +1 (859) 621-9880
Name Brianna Hiles.”
He even provided what he said was his address: "This is my address. 304 South Center Street Ashland Virginia. " I'm sure it's a lie too.
This is going way long, so I’ll wrap it up. I sent the money via Zelle. I never saw the forks. Steve and Ronald did keep up the charade for a few days even though the money was irretrievably in their hands. Then radio silence.
Ronald001 did respond to someone else here on GTT needing a Gator fender and Kylew spotted it in the Wanted to Buy forum and made a comment about it looking shady. I messaged him about my predicament and he agreed that it looked really shady because:
- Ronald’s response directed you to someone off site who had exactly what was requested.
- Ronald had a very low posting count (003 at the time, I think)
I went to every step in the way to file dispute/loss forms. No joy so far. I sent a few "honor shaming" emails to Ronald and Steve. Still nothing.
A couple of items that hopefully help you not be a part of something like this:
- Zelle has no protections. And, to be absolutely clear and fair to them, they are absolutely clear about this. A Zelle transaction is virtual cash. Imagine handing someone a stack of cash. That is what it is. There is no recourse. Once it leaves your hand, and you confirm multiple times it’s ok and that you know who you’re sending it to (which of course I clicked “yes”) it’s gone. No recourse, no recall, no protection.
- The phone number was a real number, answered by a woman who was not interested in talking to me or about Steve.
- The names Steve was giving me as the recipient was not him. It was his secretary, and it changed three times.
- My bank has a relationship with Zelle as their facilitator for online fund transfer. After I realized I was scammed, I talked with them and they said Zelle is a contractor and not part of the bank. So I don’t have protection from online fraud, nor help from their online fraud department.
- Zelle is clear that they’re just the facilitator. If you say it’s ok to send, that’s all the approval they need to send the money. I filed a fraud claim with them anyway. 30 days later, no response.
- The money went through Zelle to another bank. That bank then, as I understand it, routed it to a bank that puts the money straight into debit/gift cards. The money is gone, they have no interest in assistance.
- The US Government does have a department for investigating internet fraud. I filed a report and a form with them. 30 days later, no response.
- To be clear ONCE THE MONEY IS GONE, IT’S GONE. THERE IS NO DISPUTE TO RESOLVE AS YOU’VE GIVEN THE OK TO SEND IT. This isn’t like a credit or debit card purchase where you have some protections. I sent the money in good faith that once received they would send the forks. Just like if they had sent the forks prior to payment they would have done so in good faith that I would pay.
I have searched on the Internet for his opening text and found more under Ronald001 and even a couple under Ronald002. I’ve emailed their site admins to let them know. Some appreciate it, some don’t.
I know this has been a long read. I haven’t hidden much. If you have questions about any of this, please ask in a reply and I’ll respond publicly as much as I can (or via conversation if you’d like).
I was lazy and eager and was not critical enough, overlooking many red flags for my convenience. That does not absolve Ronald, Steve, or Brianna of being criminals.
Hopefully, this all helps someone else from going down the same path.