3OYS: Escrow account scam leaves Valley man out $16K

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Robin Ploense works on pretty much anything that has an engine.

"Maintenance, building them, performing them, racing them," he said of the work he does on vehicles.

Ploense was recently looking for something special to work on and thought he had found it.

"It's a 1951, five-window Chevy truck," he said.

He knew the truck wouldn't come cheap but after doing some research online, he found just what he was looking for and negotiated a price of $16,420.

The only obstacle for Ploense was that the truck was all the way in Idaho.

But he said his concerns were smoothed over when the seller encouraged him to use an escrow account to make the big purchase.

An escrow account, he thought, would keep him from getting ripped off.

"What I researched on that was that that's the way you should buy a vehicle from out of state," he said.

Ploense said he was told to transfer the $16,420 into the escrow account, which would act as a third-party holding account. The seller would then ship the truck and once Ploense was in possession of it, the escrow account would release the money to the seller.

Ploense said the escrow account was with a well-known bank so he felt comfortable.

He wired the money into the so-called escrow account but the truck never came.

3 On Your Side has learned that major banks don't have these types of escrow accounts so in Ploense's case, he wired thousands of dollars straight into the account of a scammer.

“A scammer's job is to take advantage of people any way they can and they're looking for loopholes and opportunities to mislead people,” said Felicia Thompson with the Phoenix Better Business Bureau.

She explained that Ploense was misled into thinking he was dealing with a well-known bank and he was comforted even more by hearing the words "escrow account."

It's a common ploy used by scammers “to get folks to trust them and to of course deposit that money into their account and never see it again," Thompson said.

Ploense thought he was being cautious and believed he was doing all the right things to avoid getting ripped off.

Looking back, he wishes he would have done things differently.

"I wouldn't ever buy a vehicle from out of state unless you were standing in front of it," he advised.