BOUNTIFUL — Clinton Burnell, 21, is getting back to every day life, after returning from a two-year mission in San Diego for the LDS Church.
As part of that process, he went shopping for a car with his dad and a friend this week. He checked online, and while searching KSL Classifieds, he found a deal he just couldn’t pass up.
“It was a killer deal for $2,600 for a 2005 red Chevy Cavalier,” Burnell said.
He immediately called the seller and arranged to meet at the seller’s work place in Salt Lake City.
“And we met up with him, took it for a little drive and everything and it was good,” Burnell said.
He offered to buy the car but didn’t have the full amount. The seller said other potential buyers were offering cash, so Burnell gave him a $500 deposit and arranged to meet the seller at his home later that evening.
But when Burnell went to the Sugar House address, there wasn’t a house, but a school. And the calls to the seller’s cell phone went straight to voicemail.
He later discovered that the seller didn’t even work at the place where they had met him earlier.
“Honestly, I thought, 'I just got scammed for $500,'” Burnell said.
His father was with him when he went to meet the seller.
David Burnell said the man, who identified himself as Joshua Campbell, seemed so friendly and sincere that they overlooked the fact that he didn’t have the car title with him.
They didn’t verify the VIN number the seller wrote on the bill of sale, either, and later learned that number was bogus.
“He was good. He really knew what he was doing. I’m pretty sure he got a couple more people too that night,” Clinton Burnell said.
The executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce says it’s likely the seller has scammed other people. Francine Giani warned that people need to do their homework when dealing with classified ads.
In Clinton’s case, it may be difficult to get his money back.
“I know he took it for a test drive. It would have been nice if we had a driver’s license or VIN number or something like that that could have given us some additional information,” Giani said.
The father and son say they learned that lesson the hard way.
“I thought, 'My son got back from a mission.' I thought because he was a good kid, he was being blessed, but in reality he was being taken by a very smooth, smooth, smooth guy,” David Burnell said.
“It’s just a realization that there is stuff like this that happens in the world and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen to other people, too,” Clinton Burnell said.
His friend, Brandy Vega, described the seller as between 30 and 35 years old, about 6 feet tall, weighing 180 pounds with dark brown/black hair and a dark brown/black goatee. She described the car as a 2005 red Chevrolet Cavalier coupe, with standard rims with scratches. The windows are not tinted, and a tear on the driver's seat was hand- stitched. The Chevy emblem on the front of car is tarnished.
Brett Atkinson, the general manager of KSL.com, said fraud is not an issue exclusive to his site, but KSL.com proactively tries to combat fraud, investing in resources to take those types of ads down.
There are tips for buyers and sellers on avoiding fraud, on the website.