Have internet scammers gotten THIS good?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by schmookeeg, May 9, 2021.

  1. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    Hello, sorry, this is a bit long :)

    Background: My Baron is in annual, and, shocking nobody, the 2200 SMOH left engine is wanting a cash infusion of a few AMUs (a leaky exhaust valve and some pitted lifters). Rather than throw good money after a tired motor, I was prepared to MOH the thing, and assumed I could swap-and-overhaul in 4-6 weeks tops.

    Problem: All of my preferred shops are quoting 2-6 months (!) turnaround times

    I don't want this downtime in spring/summer, so I am exploring creative alternatives.

    My current thought: Buy a core engine, spend the couple grand on the current motor, overhaul the core, swap in wintertime.

    ==

    So I have a barnstormers ad out there, looking for an engine. Basic. https://www.barnstormers.com/classified-1657899-Continental-IO-550C.html?catid=16752

    I received a response via text the next day. The message went:

    Great! I replied:

    He answered back:

    And sure enough, I received this via Email:

    So I can use a C6F to replace my C7F with a magneto swap, easy peasy.

    The photos show an engine on a pallet, and had the details I requested.

    IMG_7145.jpeg IMG_7146.jpg IMG_7147.jpg IMG_7148.jpg IMG_7149.jpg IMG_7150.jpg



    The engine appears to have an aftermarket turbo and exhaust which is strange. Fine. I assume this is the rare and terrible Merlyn Baron system and can be chucked. The rest looks just like my current motors, and the shot of the data plate matches expectations and logs. ~500smoh in 2006 and even flown last october. Better than expected for a core. John Jewell overhaul.

    It all sounded perfect for my purposes, and the price was well in range too.

    Here's the problem.

    After reviewing the provided logs, I found the donor N# referenced and I went a-googling

    ...That very plane is for sale right now on controller.

    https://www.controller.com/listing/for-sale/199849583/1988-beechcraft-58-baron-piston-twin-aircraft

    The logbooks in the PLANE ad match what I was sent for the ENGINE, however the ENGINE version started at the last overhaul, whereas the PLANE went all the way back to the 2001 Reman. So someone doctored a PDF and ginned up dataplate and credible engine photos?

    ಠ_ಠ Someone is lying. On the internet?? Impossibru!

    I have a note out to the Plane Broker, and some pointy questions for the engine seller.

    My question to this group:

    Would someone photoshop a data plate for a shot at a scam? Do you think the broker provided that photo to a scammer and it was added to some other photos to make a convincing set?

    I can't find the pallet engine photos anywhere on the internet. (tineye came up empty) Is it possible someone married photos of an IO-550 (from some secret source?) and a photo of a correct data plate to match the logs stolen from a plane for-sale ad? Like, the person doing that has some aviation knowledge or got lucky.

    Really??? For Used Toyota Yaris money?

    ==

    I'm vexed. Obviously I'm now at the point where no money will leave my hand until I've clapped eyes on the thing, reviewed its logs, and loaded it into my vehicle of choice. I also would not even bring cash to the first meeting, such is my spidey sense on this thing.

    But did someone actually go this far to scam me? Because it's really rather good. These seem like skills that could be employed profitably elsewhere. Way more profitably.

    I await terms and a meeting place from the engine seller, and clarification/wtf from the plane seller about his engine. I have no idea who is lying here, but strongly assume it's the Email/SMS-er.

    But man. This is a bit scary. And I'm a techie with a high level of skepticism already.

    ==

    Anyone want to look at an "engine" in Lancaster PA before I pop over myself to have a look? Or get mugged on my behalf? :D (Do Amish buggies often use Turbonormalized Continentals?)

    Friggin internet.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
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  2. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    When I was contacted by the seller the alarms would have gone off.
     
  3. Country Flier

    Country Flier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I would tell this Tom guy everything you have discovered, and see what his explanation is...there may be some weird explanation or mix up, but more likely, when you ask, you will either hear an explanation that is clearly BS, or he will then ghost you.
     
  4. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    Well to be fair if I type my N-number into FlightAware it shows my last flight somewhere in Florida.

    I've never been to Florida.
     
  5. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Who is Tom and how did he get in possession of this engine ?

    And whether someone would do this ? Sure.
     
  6. tspear

    tspear En-Route

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    Also if you want a core, contact salvage yards. You pay just a little more than core value last I talked to a few of them for non working engine.
    Much easier.

    Tim

    Sent from my HD1907 using Tapatalk
     
  7. MBDiagMan

    MBDiagMan En-Route

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    Schmook,

    Parts and machine work take FOREVER right now. My Cessna came apart and I took pieces to Tulsa. It took almost two months before everything was gathered back up and ready for assembly. My Mooney has been apart almost two months and I am just now beginning to get responses regarding the case and crankshaft. Lycoming parts are back ordered beyond what you could ever guess.

    Especially since you have spalled lifters meaning the case will have to be split, if you want minimum downtime, your only choices are a used engine or an exchange from one of the engine shops. I really wouldn’t recommend the field overhaul process even if done by the best mechanic. Not because you will end up with a lesser engine, but because it will take FOREVER waiting on parts and machine work.

    If it’s a Lycoming you would serve yourself well to make sure it goes back together with new lifters from Lycoming. They have a diamond like coating that will help prevent or completely prevent the spalling problem experienced with Lycomings that have idle time in even moderately humid climates.
     
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  8. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Someone tried to scam me on a tortoise. They're out there, and Photoshopping a photo is child's play. That said, I suspect the scammer is involved in aviation somehow. too much technical information to be otherwise. The OP should get the guys contact information and spread it all over the internet. We've a small community, scammers can stay outed.
     
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  9. Doug Reid

    Doug Reid Line Up and Wait

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    Tell the seller you want better pics of engine showing top right side including data plate...not just data plate alone. You might call the FBO and ask if anyone knows the seller...
     
  10. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    While you're right to be careful, it's possible there's nothing scammy about it.

    From Flightaware, the plane has been flying pretty regularly over the last 6 months (since its last annual). However, there have been a few times where it has sat for a few weeks or a month. Engine swap?

    Sometimes these ads hang around long after the airplane has been sold, too. Can't tell if that's the case here. I suspect not, since the registration (from February) shows it in the name of the seller's company, with no "pending" showing.

    A simple call to the contact number on the for sale ad should clear it up one way or the other. But you're right, it does seem like a lot of work if it's a scam, when they could just be selling extended warrantees instead.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2021
  11. Bell206

    Bell206 En-Route

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    Yes. People of this nature have been this good for decades and will even go beyond doctoring pictures or records and doctor the actual parts themselves. A pair of wooden Bell 47 main rotor blades come to mind with newly spliced blade tips or filling in cracks/excessive dents with bondo and putting serviceable tags on the part.
    Don't know. But there could also be no issue to this as well. The aircraft ad could be dated and that aircraft was sold and the new owner decided to install new engines. So Tom could be the guy who did the work. Once again don't know. But with proper due diligence you'll find out. Based on your limited info above there is still a lot of unknowns and I would give Tom a chance to follow up.
     
  12. MICHAEL MAHN

    MICHAEL MAHN Pre-Flight

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    I'm torn on this one. Scams that require a lot of effort and specific information seem unlikely. But then, if they can score big on a single transaction, maybe it's worth their effort. Please do report back the outcome.
     
  13. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Pattern Altitude

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    I don’t think this is correct for big bore Continentals. I replaced all the lifters on my left engine on the plane. They showed minor face spalling as seen with a bore scope from the oil filler neck. Just wanted to stay ahead of it before it became a problem.
     
  14. MBDiagMan

    MBDiagMan En-Route

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    Well, the OP said that it had some pitted lifters. Regardless of whether the cam is low or high, the only way to replace a lifter is to split the case. Yes, Continentals are less susceptible to this malady, but if it happens, the case has to be split to remedy it.

    Edit:

    Whoops, it just occurred to me that if this engine has barrel lifters instead of mushroom type, then you’re right, it won’t have to be split.
     
  15. catmandu

    catmandu Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Just ask for clarification, go with your gut. I had a similar situation recently with an AirBnB, overseas accented voice called asking me to cancel my online reservation, house listed on wrong account, bookkeeping all messed up, pay direct, etc. I did a little investigating and felt good enough to do what they asked, but I did use a credit card so I could dispute the charge if needed. It all worked out, and they gave me a discount for the hassle.
     
  16. donjohnston

    donjohnston Cleared for Takeoff

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    I find the picture of the dataplate interesting. From the picture of that side of the engine there is a fuel line and two injector lines running directly over the dataplate. Yet the picture of the dataplate appears to be from a distance where those lines would be in the picture. And there are reflections of lines in the dataplate picture which don't match the picture of the engine.

    Of course it's possible that lines were disconnected and moved to get that picture of the dataplate.
     
  17. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    :D

    So the plane broker this morning confirms that the engine and logbooks in his possession remain on/with the plane he is selling. He had his mechanic verify it and he is puzzled on my behalf. He did not send any of those photos.

    Still waiting to hear from the engine seller -- my last ask was for a place this week to meet. I mentioned I would be inspecting logs and engine, then settling in cash or equivalent in my bank branch same day. That might throw ice water on the whole thing.


    I sort of agree with the above -- the scammer has aviation knowledge. That seems like a mighty small slice in the venn diagram of "internet scammers" and "dudes with aviation knowledge", but I suppose they're out there and need finding.


    If he persists, the engine is interesting to me as-is, and a mini roadtrip to go check it out won't bother me as a remote worker. Might be worth a few hundred bucks in gas to learn that CMI screwed up and has two data plates for the same SN in the wild? Dunno.

    And yes the lifters can be swapped on the conti without cracking the case. I've already asked my IA to "buy me another year" with some top-end repairs. I hate doing that, but I don't want the downtime. I have a few other core leads, some cheaper, some more, but I'm not opposed to hanging a used engine either, so this was appealing.

    Will update if I hear from the purported scammer :) I was going to ask him for a photo of the starter adapter casting, but am open to other ideas. The data plate "in situ" is a good idea too.
     
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