Pennsylvania

Police warn of "white van scam"

Involves selling electronic home theater goods

Pennsylvania State Police are reminding people of a resurgence of the "white van scam".

The scam involves the sale of "expensive, high-end" electronic home theater goods from the back of an SUV or van at a significantly discounted price. The equipment is cheap, typically because it is poor-quality imitations of name-brand goods.

Scammers will target moderately trafficked areas, such as shopping centers, gas stations, and bank parking lots. They will typically use a fictitious backstory saying they are selling high-end, expensive equipment because they either have too much inventory or have extra units that they need to get rid of quickly.

The equipment's brand name is often similar to well-known manufacturers and the merchandise is normally in original packaging, with items such as an MSRP price tag and buzzwords such as 4K, high-resolution audio and high-wattage numbers.

Potential customers may be told this is a now-or-never opportunity and may be pressured or urged to buy quickly and the seller may be accommodating as they wait for the customer to retrieve money from an ATM or will accept whatever amount the customer can offer at the time.

This scam has also reached the internet. Scammers will present online store-fronts, "official" Facebook pages, Craigslist ads and EBay accounts to sell their products. Online store-fronts are meant to help legitimize the products and high MSRP prices when customers do research.

Recommendations to avoid the scam include: 

  • Be vigilant if approached by someone selling merchandise out of their vehicle
  • Google or do an Internet search of the company name or description of the situation and add the word 'scam' at the end before searching, which may help identify potential scams
  • Be aware that brand names may sound similar to well-known and regarded manufacturers
  • Ask specific questions about the product, origin and brand and closely inspect the merchandise before buying
  • Do not feel pressure to buy immediately
  • If it seems to good to be true, it probably is
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card when shopping online, as credit cards offer much greater consumer protection if your information is stolen

If you have been a victim of a scam, contact your local law enforcement agency and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your contact information
  • The type of product/service involved
  • Information about the seller and circumstances of the transaction including: amount paid, method of payment, date of transaction, a description of the location, seller and vehicle if it was an in-person sale, or the website if done online.

If you see something suspicious, call 911 immediately and report as much detailed information as possible to authorities.


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