Is this a scam?

So, as a dedicated reader of classified ads, I frequently come across offers of information on, say, how to get in on government auto auctions, or how to make money stuffing envelopes at home. I called the number once, and was informed that I would need to pay some amount (I think it was around $40, and I was calling about the above-mentioned auction info) to get the lowdown. My question: has anyone ever tried these things out, and are they legit? I have a strict “If it sounds too good to be true…” policy, but I can see how a company could profit by selling this sort of information. So I’m not sure. Any help much appreciated.

If I knew how to buy jeeps at $40, I’d be buying jeeps at $40 all day. Why bother to sell this information and make a few bucks, when I can buy at jeep at $40 and make thousands of dollars in profits selling it myself?

Same thing with the make $5000 at home deals. If I knew how I could make $5000 at home working part time I’d hire 20 people, pay them $10 an hour and make the $100,000 myself.

The stuffing envelope is an old scam. Sometimes they’ll send you some envelopes to stuff and pay you $5. Then if you want more you’ll need to buy some kind of package for $20 or $40. And when the package gets there it’s either nothing or instructions telling you to do the same thing to other people.

I’ve recently been getting about 30-40 e-mails from different sources telling me they’re looking for people who want to make at least $10K a month. It’s the same chain mail thing where you send $5 to the first guy on a list of 5 people, forward the e-mail to 20 people and put yourself last on the list and delete the first guy. Except they try to make it legitimate by giving you a booklet you photocopy and pass on for the $5. All the idiots who put their real name on the list and are thereby in the chain mail scheme should be prosecuted.

Scammers are stupider than you think, plain dumb in fact.

Well, I ponder this…
If it was so easy to make money, why are these people advertising these opportunities, instead of taking advantage of themselves?

I should make this clearer. Any scheme which advertises really really easy ways to make money are scams. If it were that easy, these people would be using these schemes and not selling them.

And I apologize for using the word “dumb” in my first post, it was a typo and I meant no disrespect, I meant to say dum, as in “Dum and dummer.”

That IS the scam. They sell you an info packet on how to sell info packets to “hire” other people to do the work. That’s why you see so many of these stupid ads. It’s a pyramid scheme.

Pssst…hey you ,yeah you, c’mere.Keep this quiet and I’ll sell you my last last copy of “How to Spot an On-line Scam” for only $39.99.

A similar work-from-home scam which has more than once been exposed on TV here in the UK involves assembling anything from simple electrical devices to decorative paper flowers. You pay the company for a kit of parts plus instructions. You then assemble the items and send them back. The company will pay you for each assembled item. The scam? well, everything you make will fail to meet the quality standard required so you get nothing. The company is in the business of selling kits and doubtless have no customers for the finished article.

Chas E. has it right on the noggin. Nearly each and every one of these scams are simply “modern” (read that as ‘now on E-mail’) incarnations of the old envelope-stuffing scam.

It’s simple in concept, though some have added all sorts of convolutions to disguise the actual procedure.
Here’s how it works, at it’s simplest.

A) You see this ad for “make money fast!”

B) You send in your $5 or $20 or whatever.

C) You recieve a (stuffed) envelope that contains some photocopied instructions.

D) The instructions tell you to photocopy those very instructions, and then turn around and sell them to others, using the same “Make money fast!” catchphrase.

That’s the scam- You sell copies of instructions on how to sell copies of the instructions.

As for the “$40 Jeeps”, well, that wasn’t a scam- at least not entirely- but it’s long since dead and gone.

Originally, as in several decades ago, the US Military did indeed phase out the original style Jeeps, and typically they sold them at auction. And yes, some of them sold for $40, sometimes less.

But here’s the kicker- the Jeep, I believe it was what, the M153? Anyway, it had an odd articulated rear suspension that worked great at low speeds in the mud, but was terribly unstable at higher speeds on the pavement. The DOT refused to allow that unsafe a system in the US, so the Jeep could not, therefore, be titled, licensed or registered for use on public roads.

In fact, when one purchased the Jeep at auction, the rules quite clearly stated that the Jeep in it’s entirety, drivetrain and suspension included, had to be destroyed and could not be removed from US Military property.
The manual recommended that the vehicle be driven over at least three times by a tank or bulldozer to render it unusable.

So you could buy a Jeep at a military Auction, but you essentially paid for the pleasure of watching it be crushed and buldozed.

There was something of a scam involved, where people would sell lists and information telling the list-buyer where and when the next Military auction was, and using the “$40 Jeep” tagline was the come-on.

For the past 20 years or more, military auctions have been regularly staffed by “professional” auction-hoppers, who are looking for hardware for resale. The chances of a newbie showing up and getting a Jeep or truck- a more modern one, the old-style Jeeps basically don’t exist anymore- for anything approaching a rediculously low price, are slim indeed. The pros have the savvy, the bucks and the experience- you will NOT outbid them without winding up paying more than the junker’s worth. (There’s a reason they’re being auctioned, after all.)

Do like I do and just ignore that E-mail. Delete it. Go on to the next one and forget it.


Yes it’s a scam.

If you want the opportunity to buy that “$400 Ferrari/$40 Jeep/$800 Cigarette Offshore powerboat”, you have to be reaaallly persistent and reaaaalllyy lucky.

You go to your local law enforcement agency (including customs) and ask when, where and how often they have their “seized items” auctions. If they don’t tell you about the next one (and if you’re reaalllly nice to them), they will tell you where they will post the notice (they keep these things pretty low key).

Usually, though, licenced car dealers and brokers get first pick of the cars, and they pay probably 20% under black book (market rate for specified car). Jeeps and Ferraris do not come along very often, and they’re pretty quickly scooped up by the brokers. Most of the time it’s household items, bicycles, and (if cars) Chevy Vegas, Novas, Ford Torinos and pickup trucks. (Sexy, huh?)

But once you get into the loop of auctions, you have to stay in the loop. You have to sift through the sh1# in order to get to the shine. And many times those’ll be brought up quick.

If, however, you do luck out in finding an under-publicized government auction, find few brokers there to take away the car of your dreams, are able to outbid everyone else there (or maybe they’re sleeping), then maybe you can grab a Bentley with a flat tire and three dents in the front fender as a result of the high-speed chase from the cops for $5000 (which IS a deal… but…).

The $40 Jeep is a once-in-a-lifetime thing… and we’re living in that lifetime. But it doesn’t stop advertisers from trying to convince you that it’s a daily occurance.

Hope that helps.

Just to go along with Doc Nickel, one of my grandfather’s last jobs before retiring from the Army was to drive nearly brand-new Jeeps to the crushing yard.

General Life Rule:

If you have to ask if something is a scam, then it is.

In addition to c_goat’s rule, if you have to pay for a free prize, it’s not a prize, and it’s not free. If you have to pay to find out how to make money, don’t bother. The only money to be made is the money you send in to find out.

These are good rules to live by, and I wish more people followed them.

Sure, one jeep that was in a hurricane, a flood & under a volcano & couldn’t be smogged sold for $400…

If you want information on gov auctions get it from the gov internet sites, its free information.

Same thing with US PO unclaimed mail auctions.

Yes, it’s a scam, fully described at the Crimes of Persuasion website:

Fraudulent Claims of Government Auctions of Seized Property

Just wanted to add that my favorite places to web surf, other than the Straight Dope, of course, are scambusting websites. There are tons of them around, with great (and often fascinating) information. Many also have message boards where you can ask about a particular company or offer and someone is sure to have the scoop.

A few to get you started:

Friends In Business - Scams 101

Crimes of Persuasion

Scam Central

Thanks for the addresses SpoilerVirgin, this promises some good reading…


Umm, that should be “blue book”, right?



Hey, thanks for the information, all. I want to clear up two things, though -

First, I’m not sure where the $40 jeep idea came from. My point was that they were advertising information on how to get in on government auctions, for a price (I pulled the $40 figure out of my butt). I wasn’t expecting to buy a vehicle (why jeeps in particular?) for $40. In fact, I know a gentleman who participates in these auctions, and he’s explained to me what is necessary to get in the door. I was using it as an example only.

Second, I was looking specifically for input from people who’d tried these things out, to tell me what, exactly, they’re all about. SpoilerVirgin’s links appear to be just that. Thanks oodles.

Oop. Got me there. Yes, you are right.

Although the numbers in THIS book are pretty informative as wel-- never mind :smiley:

Yeah, but if you’re looking for a non-sexy car, this can be a decent way to get one. If you’re looking for a pickup truck, it might not be that bad. I’ve been looking around for an early '70s Cadillac that runs well for cheap. I think my next stop will be an auto auction.

It seems the OP is asking about the auto auction ad specifically, and not the “make money fast” schemes.

A friend of mine did indeed sign up for the auto auction notification (it cost him around $40 i believe). About a month later, he received information on an upcoming auction in the area. He never received any more after that. I suppose the company’s obligation was fulfilled just by sending one notice. If they did send out multiple notices, as is implied, then it wouldn’t be such a bad deal.

The “$40 jeeps” and other claims is not a scam, it’s just advertising; just like Nike sneakers won’t make you jump like Michael Jordan and Big Macs don’t look quite like they do in commercials. Have you ever seen a company that did not claim to have the lowest priced/best quality products?

My friend and i did go to that auction, and luckily for us it was an outside auction on a cold, rainy day (fewer people = fewer bidders). I bought a “questionable” car for $75 and it turns out i lucked out again, as the car ran great. I’ve been driving it for over four years, have spent less than $1000 on maintenance, and have even taken it on two 3000 mile road trips.

This website is total bullshit. They make an obvious lie: “In fact, cars sold at auctions typically sell for their fair market value or higher.” The reason people go to auctions is to purchase cars for less than fair market value. If a price approaches fair market value, people stop bidding.

Whenever a website blatantly lies, i have a tendency to not believe anything else they say. Additionally, i have anecdotal evidence (my story above) which exposes another lie: “The only cars that sell for $100 to $350 are damaged or junk vehicles which are purchased for scrap.” Another man at the auction bought about 10 cars for $50-$300 each to fix up and use for his cab company.

I think the attractiveness of the offer is that, even though you could get the information for free, paying the $40 or so means that you don’t have to do the work of hunting down that information. I could grow tomatoes in my backyard for free, that doesn’t mean that supermarkets and produce stands selling them is a scam.

The bottom line is that, if the company did what it claimed, it wouldn’t be a scam. But since most companies seem to screw the customer, it is a scam. Perhaps there are a few companies that actually do this fairly … the problem is figuring out which companies rip you off and which don’t.