If we’ve learned anything about the Panama-based Internet scam called Super Replicas, it’s that they’re like a virus — constantly mutating and evolving into new forms as they seek to separate hopeful exotic car owners from their money.
In case you’re not familiar with Super Replicas, it’s a scam we’ve been going after for years now. Enticing buyers with images stolen from across the web and fabricated celebrity endorsements, they promise perfect “replicas” of exotic cars and SUVs for as low as $20,000.
And when buyers send them money, they get absolutely nothing in return. Surprise! You can’t really get a perfect replica of a brand-new or near-new car for Toyota Camry money.
Despite all the negative publicity around Super Replicas, they’re still around if you can believe it. The primary way they avoid people knowing they’re a scam — which thanks largely to Jalopnik, can be figured out from a simple Google search — is to change their name and move to a different website. And it works.
The latest website is called CEC Build. If you’ve been following the Super Replicas saga for a while, you’ll immediately spot it as a Super Replicas website. I did, but a lot of people won’t.
Earlier this week I had a phone chat with a gentleman in Dallas. We’ll call him Eric, because he’s embarrassed and I’m sure he doesn’t want his real name out there. Eric found CEC Build online and was enticed by their investment opportunities — they offer some buyers the chance to start “franchise” replica shops.
To Eric’s credit he did research online about CEC Build and said he didn’t find anything that raised a red flag. (Sure, the website is full of gross spelling and grammar errors, and the logic at play in how they make their “replicas” is shaky at best, but we’ll give him a pass for a moment.)
Eric even spoke to a man on the phone who reassured him everything was legitimate. That man had an unusual accent and called himself “Dave,” meaning he was all but certainly Daniel John Seppings, the Australian-born religious extremist, accused child molester and mastermind behind the scam. (I’ve spoken to him on the phone as well. He can be very convincing, but he doesn’t like being confronted.)
The point is, Eric sent them $5,000 in hopes of starting franchise, and when the payment went through, it showed up in his bank account as going to “SR Cars Panama.”
From there, Eric quickly figured out that he was dealing with Super Replicas. He received nothing in return, of course.
“I feel so horrible,” he said. “I’m going crazy over this.”
Just like Super Replicas and their various satellite sites like “Audi USA Motors,” “Top Gear Carbon Copies” and others, CEC Build promises they can build any replica exotic car you want, perfectly, and on the cheap.
If I somehow haven’t made it clear so far, this is all bullshit.
Nearly all of the photos on their websites are stolen from other places. (Go ahead, run a reverse Google search on them. I’ll wait.) Their videos feature clips taken from TV shows and movies, and their claimed celebrity endorsements are all lies.
They claim to make what are essentially tube frame chassis kit cars using kevlar and carbon fiber. (You know, because carbon fiber is so cheap.) And they say they can offer the cars so cheaply thanks to production in Mexico through some NAFTA agreement.
Look at that clip art! You know they’re legit when they have clip art!
In reality, Super Replicas is a handful of guys in Panama. There’s no evidence they’ve ever built more than a handful of poor-quality replicas, and absolutely no evidence that they’ve ever delivered one to a satisfied paying customer. Check out this video of their workshop if you don’t believe me:
I know our victim Eric will get his fair share of criticism for falling for such a scam. I find much more of the fault lies with Super Replicas. This is an elaborate, ongoing scam that has had a web presence for at least seven or eight years now, if not more. It exists solely to prey upon those who dream of owning an exotic car but don’t happen to be millionaires, or at least successful thousandaires. It’s cruel, ugly and shameful, and it’s amazing it continues to exist at all.
So why hasn’t anyone shut Super Replicas down? Even if the victims are in the U.S. like Eric, there are little the authorities can do here since the operation is headquartered in Panama. And as we’ve been told by numerous sources in that country, the police in that notoriously corrupt country won’t go after them because they employ locals and probably pay up to the right people.
In short, Super Replicas is in a good place to keep ripping people off.
So if you’re out there on the Interwebs, and you see someone purporting to offer perfect “replicas” of brand-new or newer-ish vehicles, know that you’re probably going to get screwed if you give them your money. I’m sure Eric wishes he knew that a few weeks ago.
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