I got scammed trying to buy a Porsche 912 and it’s all my fault. It doesn’t matter that I thought I vetted the listing well. I verified, consulted, gut-checked, and Google-Earthed, but it wasn’t enough. Because none of those things was enough to prevent the real scam, the one I played on myself.
Chasing the vintage Porsche dragon has become a second occupation for me. I’ve lusted after a neighbor’s garaged 356 for almost two decades. I get hourly auction listing updates and scour places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp looking for that incredible deal. That last spot is where I met Allen Aldiler – given name spelled like a last name. First red flag.
The Mark And The Setup
The 912 in question (not the pristine example pictured here) wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t too horrible either. Patina-kissed with some mechanical issues, but nothing that wouldn’t take too long for a solid technician to sort through on the exceedingly basic 1.6-liter flat-four tucked into its rear. The 1966 pedigree was ideal, a short-wheelbase diamond in the rough. The best part: My man Allen was only asking $8,500. Red flag number two.
Allen provided a phone number in his response to my message inquiring about the location of the minimal rust problem and the origins of the car. (Phone number equals reg flag number three, as I’ll detail below.) He said he was showing it that same afternoon at 4:00 at the address he provided, which was two hours by car from me. Not too far to drive for a great deal, thought I.
Mr. Aldiler (not one of these on Google, by the way) seemed affable on the phone. Yes, I called him. The one-owner car belonged to his father-in-law, he explained. They’d had it in storage for a while and it was time to just get rid of it. I asked him what he was going to do when multiple buyers showed up and a bidding war started. “So many people don’t show for these things,” he said. (This was more than just a red flag; this was the matador violently waving a cape the size of Rhode Island in my face – but still, I didn’t see it.)
Why was this a huge tell? Because good-ole Allen’s profile was brand new. If he was some old guy just trying to do his wife a solid and sell her dearly departed dad’s rusty bag of sheet metal, then how would he have known that a seller could win a million bucks by betting on the public’s flake factor? Oh, Lyn.
Like A Moth To The Flame
He texted me a copy of the title. Wow, this must be real! Who has that piece of documentation except the actual selling party? The VIN numbers tracked. The first two numbers were 45. On a Porsche those numbers indicate that the car to which this chassis number belongs is a 912. It said 1966. And the address was the same as the one he’d given me. I immediately called my friend who’s reached mythical god status when it comes to buying vintage cars. He once had a seller call him three times lowering the asking price of his 1966 912 until finally my friend capitulated and agreed to buy it.
Turns out my friend, the car-buying Rain Man, lives three miles from the address Allen gave me. When he drove by to see if he could spot a car, all he found was a driveway blocked by sawhorses. (As I write this, I’m feeling dumber by the second). Clearly, these poor folks were sick of naïve wannabes desperate to sniff out accessible membership to the cult of Luftgekühlt banging on their door.
I Googled the people named on the title – Allen's supposed parents-in-law. Yes, they were real people who lived in that house, or did at one time. That checked out. But the car was still a specter. Unless it was tucked behind the house, my buddy couldn’t spot it.
Allen’s text of the title came with the ask for a $1,000 deposit. I got a lump in my throat. To me a grand is real money. I stalled while my friend drove by the address. When the car spotting search turned up a goocher, I responded with a $200 deposit offer and the promise I’d get in my car that second and be down there by 4:00. My heart raced. My palms were sweating. I called the guy, desperate for him to not give my opportunity to someone else. He counter-offer texted with $500.
Five Benjamins was still out of my comfort zone. With a heavy heart I declined and even apologized for wasting his time. But when he came back with my $200 offer that’s when I knew. This was either a cosmic gift or a cosmic test. Either way, I had to decide if I was willing to pay $200 to see what was behind Door Number One.
I consulted two additional friends, one whose workout I kept interrupting. I could hear him jacking steel while he asked what he thought were the right questions. Even he vacillated from "it sounds too good to be true" to "well, that seems on the up-and-up, and if you get it it’s an amazing deal." There are goofy people out there who are just weird or older people who have no clue how this stuff works. This could still be real and turn into a story for the ages.
Like a glassy-eyed automaton, I laid down my $200 sacrifice at the altar of Porsche.
Taking The Bait
Weirdly, Allen, with the spoils of war in hand, texted me again shocked and amazed that I was someone “famous” and since I reviewed cars for a living. Did I think this car was worth more money? (Allen Googled me!)
This was supposed to be the time the scammer ghosts the scammee, not gushes at them about what a cool job they have. So, maybe this was for real and this guy was just a little odd. Then he got odder. Allen told me that someone else had left a $1,000 deposit, so he felt he needed to give me my money back. So, now he’s just a guy with a conscience since he knows who I am? This guy has to be for real. (Or he thinks you’re rich and is trying for more cash, dummy.)
Again, my heart started racing. I couldn’t lose this car to some other jerk who no doubt already had two Porsches and was only interested in this one to flip it. I appealed to Allen’s wife in my next text. Wouldn’t it be great if this could be owned by a woman? I’d be such a steward of her father’s car. Such cringe-worthy desperation.
Like a glassy-eyed automaton, I laid down my $200 sacrifice at the altar of Porsche.
All Allen told me after that was that his wife was jealous, and she was sending back my money plus $200 for my trouble. He asked if I’d received it yet. I tried calling him back. It rolled into voicemail. My Mr. Workout friend told me that if this guy sent me $400 then I should tell him I’ll send him $1000. My pulse quickened. Great idea. No scammer would send me money, would they? This was it. This was going to happen. In a few hours I’d own a 912. I’d be in the club. But Allen never sent me anything but a text saying he was on my side and his wife wanted to sell it to the other guy.
With two of my consultants in tow, who were now just as emotionally – if not monetarily – invested as I, we headed down to north San Diego County. With nothing else to do, we were all curious how this would play out. And if they were there, I’d appeal to Allen and his wife in person. But in the way you know the girl in the rom-com isn't going to pick the seemingly perfect suitor with the money and the penthouse apartment, I knew there was no car.
The Trap Snaps Shut
A little over 100 miles from my house, and close to the address Allen gave me, one of my road trip buddies did a reverse search on the listing images. I’d Googled the words “Porsche 912 for sale” and didn’t see this car anywhere else, but I didn’t know you could reverse-search an image. Within seconds we found the actual listing. It was being offered by a dealer in New York for $34,000. And it was a 1965 not a ‘66, so that title was fake or for some other 912. We also reverse-searched Allen’s online profile picture. Turns out it was a stock shot of a Filipino actor name Patrick Garcia. Cute kid.
I sent Allen the actual listing knowing I’d never hear from him again.
With my head hung low, I wondered if I might have any recourse in retrieving my money. Did I deserve any? When I got home after drowning my sorrows in fish tacos, I reached out to a friend’s husband, David Shuman, who’s sold the contents of abandoned storage units online for over two decades. I recounted everything, including how "Allen" never changed his story.
“You want to believe them, and they know that," Dave said. "But if it’s too good to be true and you’re not right in front of the person don’t do it."
This guy should know. He wrote a book called How to Make a Living Buying Storage Auctions. He’s seen every scam imaginable. Here’s the advice he gave me, which I’m passing along for free:
- They know what the hot tickets are. Porsche seekers beware.
- If it’s an unbelievable deal, it’s not to be believed.
- Scammers are always new to whichever sales platform they’re using because it’s a fake account. (Meta, if you’re reading this, since everyone else has been on Facebook for years, all new accounts should be highly scrutinized! “Facebook will put me in jail or take me off Marketplace if I sell something they don’t like, but these guys are still working,” Shuman said.)
- Never use money-transfer services like Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App. Those do not reimburse you if goods and services aren’t rendered. PayPal allows you to dispute if you don’t get what you paid for, unless you send money using the free Friends and Family transfer.
- Never communicate anywhere but on the app. Never give out your cell number. If they ask to call you it’s a scam.
- There are no deposits. Ever. Unless you give one to a physical person. Even then, be skeptical. If you must, again, PayPal business transfers are the only acceptable form of payment.
If said scammer gives you a phone number, it’s phony. A phone number can be altered to appear as though it’s coming from anywhere in the US. But you can reverse search their physical location for a small fee. There are websites online that offer this service, some for just a buck…
Reverse-search images in the listing to see if you can find another listing. This service is free through the Google app on iPhone or Android. Dealers, if you’d put diagonal watermarks on your images, this would deter scammers from using screenshots.
All of this advice is great, but it’s useless if you’re too blinded by desire to see the truth. The most important verification you can do is of yourself. Wanting something so badly that all logic and reality get ditched is enough to keep a person up at night. For me there were so many flags flying around I could have started a squad to accompany a marching band. Had I taken more time to detach myself from the want, I would have clearly seen that there was nothing there.
I’m not proud of my behavior. But it could have been a lot worse. For a brief moment I thought about telling him I’d buy the car sight unseen. Losing $200 was bad enough. Losing $8500 would have sent me into a tailspin. But hopefully this will prevent someone else from being fleeced by their own longing.
I’ve already stopped browsing the internet and unsubscribed from my auction notifications. For now, I’m out of the business of Porsche treasure-hunting. Unless of course, you’ve got a 912 you’re looking to sell?