Since I write about selling unused stuff on Craigslist and eBay, I just want to share my recent experience with you. Basically, you have to be careful with who you are dealing with when you are selling in these online markets. There are a lot of scammers in these marketplaces and you don’t want to end up as a victim.
Photo by Jepoirrier via Flickr
My close call with a Craigslist scammer
After listing an item on Craigslist for about a day, I received the following email:
Thanks for the response.I am willing to pay your asking price. I will pay by money order as its the only way i can pay you at the moment. I will make arrangement for the pick-up after payment have been received by you. I dont mind adding an extra twenty dollars so you can keep it in my favor. Reply with your full name, cell phone number, and address where payment should be sent. Please take the posting off craigslist today and consider it sold to me.
Expecting to hear from you soon.
It seems fine when I read it, but in the back of my mind I was wondering why the buyer didn’t simply offer to pay when he picks up the item. Why send money order first then arrange a pick up later?
Then a few days later, I got this email:
I have given my assistant the go ahead to mail payment to you. You should receive payment within the coming week (6-7days time). Once payment is received we can proceed with the pickup. Thanks for your understanding and patience.
I thought, okay this guy must be a big shot because he’s having his assistant making arrangement for his personal purchases on Craigslist.
And a few days later, I received this email:
I hope you are fine and alright. I have been busy myself but doing great. There is something i think i must bring to your notice. After a reconciliation of my account, i discovered that somehow my assistant must have over paid you. The payment that was meant for another transaction was sent to you and the one meant for you was sent to another, however i want to believe i wont have a problem with you. Please once you receive your payment, i would like you to deduct your money and send the remaining via money gram to my daughter so she can settle some of her pressing needs and also reactivate my Fed ex account. I will provide the info you need to complete the money gram transfer once you receive payment. Thanks once again for your understanding.
Okay, at this point, red flags were going up everywhere — overpayment, subtle threat, money gram to someone else, etc. I doubt I will see the money order, and it’s will be fake if I do get one. If you do receive a check or money order from these scammers, do not try to cash it. When the bank finds out, it will hold you responsible. For example, here’s a news story of a man who was arrested and jailed for trying to cash one of these checks.
How to avoid scams and fraud
Here’s a good article from Craigslist on avoiding scams and fraud:
- Deal locally with folks you can meet in person – follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on Craigslist.
- Never wire funds via Western Union, MoneyGram or any other wire service – anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
- Fake cashier checks & money orders are common, and banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.
- Never give out financial information (bank account number, social security number, eBay/Paypal info, etc.)
- Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services and know that only a scammer will “guarantee” your transaction.
Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?
It’s unfortunate that these lowlifes are everywhere. However, I still believe in using eBay and Craigslist to buy and sell used items. It’s up to you to learn how to detect these scams and to defend yourself.
Pinyo Bhulipongsanon is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance and a Realtor® licensed in Virginia and Maryland. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, financial literacy author, and Realtor®.