Scams, Time-Wasters, and More

I put my helicopter up for sale and learn that things don’t always go as smoothly as they should.

Sometime early in December, a brand-new, shiny red R44 Raven II helicopter is going to be wheeled off the assembly line at the Robinson factory in Torrance, CA. And my initials will be on its tailcone.

But before I can take delivery of this thing, I need to sell the R22 in my hangar, N7139L.

I put some ads online with Trade-A-Plane and AeroTrader on October 8. The calls and e-mails started immediately.

One of the first e-mails was from a man — we’ll call him by his initials, KG — based in the UK. According to KG, his company had discovered oil on some mountainous island and they needed a helicopter to get around. He didn’t know anything about helicopters, but mine was right at his budget. He didn’t waste any time asking typical questions. He went right into negotiation mode. We decided on a price and he said he’d be in touch when he’d arranged for shipping. For me, it was too good to be true. Way too good. But I arranged for a title/escrow agent anyway and had him get in touch with KG by fax. KG never responded. Meanwhile, other people were calling and they sounded interested. I sent KG an e-mail message and a fax, telling him that if he didn’t contact my escrow agent by noon Thursday, the deal was off. He e-mailed me before the deadline and said he’d made all his arrangements and was going to send me a certified check via DHL. The check would be for the purchase price PLUS $10,500 that I’d turn over to his shipping agent. The idea was that I’d cash the check and then make my own certified check for the $10.5K. I e-mailed him back, telling him to work through my escrow agent. I told him I would not accept delivery of a check. I didn’t give him my address.

I haven’t heard from him since and don’t expect to. It’s a scam, one that almost sucked in someone else I know for far less money. You cash the check and pay the shipping agent. Then the “certified” check you cashed bounces and you’re out the amount of money you paid to the agent.

As my friend Rod said, “I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.”

The calls asking for more info aren’t all that bad. They’re usually short and to the point. People probably dreaming about a helicopter, trying to convince themselves that this is the one. Or people who are serious buyers but want to pay about $15K less than I’m asking. They get pretty rude about that, too. “You’ll never get what you’re asking,” they say. Yeah, but I’ll get a lot more than what you’re willing to pay.

Today a time-waster came all the way up to Wickenburg to waste about 90 minutes of my time. That’s how long he spent looking at it and taking digital pictures. He now has more pictures of it than I do, and I’ve owned it for four years. At the end of his visit, he admitted that he didn’t think he should buy a helicopter with only 5 years left on the main rotor blades. Hell, he knew how much time was left before he came up to Wickenburg. Why waste half a day on the trip? I guess some people don’t have anything better to do with their time.

And then there’s the cheapskate. He makes me an offer over the phone and wants to close the deal when he comes to Wickenburg so he can fly it away. I tell him he needs to work with my escrow agent and that he’ll have to pay the escrow fee, since he’s offering $5K less than I’m asking. He tells me he doesn’t need a title search. That he’s already looked up the N-number online and knows there’s no lien. (Says it very smugly, too, like he’s so much smarter than me.) I tell him he’s wrong, there is a lien. (Silence on the other end of the phone. Seems he wasn’t as smart as he thought.) And that my escrow agent has all the payoff paperwork. And that I won’t do a deal without an escrow agent. Period. End of statement.

We’ll see if he shows up in Wickenburg anytime soon.

There are a few others in the running. One guy from Texas. Another from St. George, UT. And the flight school in Long Beach that made a low offer I already turned down.

I figure I have at least two more weeks before I have to start worrying. Near the end of November, my insurance runs out. And I need to have N7139L gone by then.

What do you think?