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Craigslist Scammer, A Close Call

Craigslist Scammer, A Close Call

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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.

scam

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.

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Tom
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Tom

As a word of caution I would also set up a separate email account on craigslist. I get spammed now on my main email account thanks to craigslist. Spammers are constantly looking for email addresses through sites like this one.

fern
Guest
fern

Great post, and the earlier poster’s comment about using a separate email account is great advice as well.

when i initially posted a few things for sale on craigs list, i got a few people asking me to ship the item to them. I refused, and now i state at the end of every posting that “You must live locally to pick up.” That sentence has totally eliminated potential scams involving shipment, although i’ve still had 1 or 2 no-shows.

Emily
Guest

Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve gotten the same type of e-mails when listing things for sale on Craigslist. Most are obviously scams (odd language, strange requests) but this guy’s first e-mail to you, and even the second, seem somewhat legit. Especially because there aren’t any typos. It can be hard to tell with the good scammers, but I definitely think Craigslist has set aside some good guidelines. Avoid the money orders — just deal with locals who can pay in cash. Also, meet in public places if you can.

The Frugal Momma
Guest

Yikes, it really does take all kinds.

Steward
Guest
Steward

I recently posted something on Craigslist and got no offers. I wasn’t overpriced (I think), but had to get ride of the item because I was moving and needed it out of the apartment. About how long does it normally take for you to get something sold on Craigslist?

Phil Taylor
Member

I would add that you might want to meet them somewhere besides your home for smaller items. You don’t want these people knowing where you live.

Jake
Guest
Jake

This is a classic scam where you’re overpaid, asked to cash, return the difference, and -you’re right- you’re left with fraud/bad check. Frequently, sadly, there’s some reference to Nigeria (or at least somewhere far away), involves an assistant, language in the email perhaps indicates a non-native English speaker, etc. As you said, you can unfortunately end up being accused of check fraud if you cash such a check or MO. Sad but LOTs of folks have fallen for this ruse.

Report this emailer to Craigslist. They can involve the FBI and catch the group–it IS an organized scam!

chris
Guest
chris

I am selling junk on craigslist, including a large piece of furniture. I have received one of these offers each week that I renew my high priced item. I always write back and tell them to take a flying leap and go try to scam someone else, because I’m not dealing with them. Craigslist = cash and carry.

tiffanie
Guest
tiffanie

It always amazes me how many people try to get away with things like this. I worked in a retail store where customers would come in to cash money orders that were fake, and they didn’t even know it! They would then explain how they got a letter to cash the money order, keep a portion and then send the rest to another address. Classic. But some people don’t know any better and free money sounds too good to pass up.

Thanks for the heads up.

Dawn
Guest

Thanks for the tip! I haven’t used CraigsList yet, I sell to people on eBay. But this is good information for future reference!

Linda
Guest
Linda

Ah…a new angle at money laundering…

Jeff in PDX
Guest
Jeff in PDX

This is the oldest scam in the book. Do a google search and you will find plenty more.

Mrs. Micah
Guest

One of my friends works in a bank and she gets a number of people who come in with the fake money orders. In many cases they haven’t yet sent goods or cash or anything, so the scammer hasn’t gotten anything from them. And she explains the scam to them. Depends on the variant, I guess.

frugal zeitgeist
Guest
frugal zeitgeist

Check out http://www.scamorama.com for lots of very, very detailed information on scam artists and how to avoid them. Some people actually engage in long correspondence with these people in hopes of protecting potential victims by wasting enormous amounts of the scammers’ time. Not my cup of tea, personally, but very enlightening.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

I just got this exact set of emails for a drum set “On Aug 18, 2008, at 4:32 PM, “Mr.John Smithson” wrote: Hi, 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… Read more »

DB Smith
Guest

Pinyo, I have a transaction in progress on Craigslist that it pretty much identical. Even the emails you received are word for word matches for the emails I got from this “buyer” Even though I answered one of the emails telling him bluntly that I felt he was a scammer, he sent the money orders. Three $850 MOs on a $300 purchase. I googled the return address from the envelope, and it appears to be a home that is for sale. I intend to take the MOs to the bank and ask them to help me verify that they are… Read more »

KK
Guest
KK

I fell for this one =( but im gonna do what DB Smith did. The scammer said exactly what you had posted i havent gotten the third one to wire transfer it to his daughter he went by the name Jeff Turner.

C.S.
Guest
C.S.

We recently had a person respond to one of our ads, posted on Craigslist. Although we specified this was a cash transaction only and the item was sold to a local buyer. The guy had the nerve to send a “scam” form e-mail, asking questions on where to mail and make out the Cashier’s check for. I felt it was odd and I will admit that I got a little annoyed, with the fact that the person responding failed to read that we only accepted cash. When the other e-mail came, regarding his secretary had made the Cashier’s Check including… Read more »

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy

I have a friend who wa also arrested sellling something on craigslist and going thru the same hassle.. arrested, name in paper with article making them look HORRIBLE.. never been in trouble in her life.. It cost her her job and nearly her family.. The thing that really irritates me, this has bene going on for SOOOOO long now and they are no closer to catching/stopping this than they were on day one.. what the heck are they REALLY doing to stop this? cause with today’s technology, this should have bene busted looong ago..

sheryl
Guest
sheryl

We’re trying to sell a car locally through Craig’s List. First time we have ever tried to do this. With all of these scams, I’m trying to figure out how we should take payment should someone want to buy our car. I find it hard to believe someone would bring $10,000 in cash … how do we protect ourselves and yet sell our car?

Ruth Shapovalov
Guest
Ruth Shapovalov

I responded to two of these scam mails this week, and we’ll see how it goes. I used the name and address of the local Sheriff rather than my own. So the local law enforcement will receive the checks directly, presumably. Should make for an interesting little investigation. Maybe I’m crazy…

Craigslist Scammer, A Close Call

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 3 min
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