Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Craigslist Scams

Scams on Craigslist are so common nowadays that it is impossible not to run into one when looking for something to buy or when selling your items.   I became aware of how prevalent these scams are when I started using Craigs List as a means to get rid of some of my unused stuff, and more recently, buying a car.  I've heard from several friends of mine that scams also range from rentals, other services, pets, tickets, and other goods ranging from book shelves to boats; both on the buying side and sellers side.  However, if you know what to look for, you can identify these scams right away.

  • The scammer wants to correspond in an e-mail and only via e-mail.  There isn't a phone number or address listed or provided at all in any correspondence between you and the scammer.  The scammer never lets you know who they are or provides any way to contact them other than via e-mail.
  • The scammer insists on not doing any face-to-face transactions.  They may be out of town on business, stationed overseas, or are too busy to meet you in person.
  • The scammer is very ambiguous and won't leave contact information and won't put their name on the bottom of the e-mail.
  • The scammer has an odd name/surname combination that doesn't match their written lingo and e-mail persona, i.e. Nora Johnson, Linda Smith, Charles Lopez, David Jones, Emma Williams, and/or Robert Brown.
  • Usually you will find these e-mails written in poor, broken English (or even poorly written Spanish) as if it is a language they learned out of a book from the middle of Zimbabwe.  The grammar is off-putting, with a lot of obvious mistakes which a fifth-grader could identify.  When you read these e-mails, it is almost as if this person has never stepped foot in the USA.   
  • Odd wording in the e-mail referring to the way the transaction is to be handled makes you re-read the sentence almost in a foreign accent.  "The pickup agent will need you to wire the money you receive," "am okay with the price and the condition pasted on cl," or "i will need your honest and trust and your updating to end up this transaction," and "im include the shipment funds in the check because I don't have time to come down for a look of the items."  Other red-flag language to be cautious of is, "CERTIFIED CHECK,"  "escrow service," "mover," "convenient means," "i promise everything will go smoothly,"  (Yeah, go smoothly for the scammer!) and any other odd words used to manipulate you.
  • Whether buying or selling, the scammer always wants you to send them money or goods in a transfer or third party transaction.  There's no face-to-face, no handshake, no telephone call, or other good ol' fashioned American bartering method.  This is the biggest red flag you can come across!  Payments are usually made via Western Union to someone you have never even met before without any way of tracing where the money is being delivered to (most often an overseas account) and the e-mail thread is untraceable.  I just ran across one that promises to send me several thousand  in a certified check for my $500 car for parts but wants me to wire the "mover" money.  Why would anyone want to pay thousands of dollars for a junk car? 
  • Another method of deceit is sending money to a fake escrow account.  It looks real, even has a legitimate-looking website.  However, once you send the money into the escrow account, the scammer disappears with your money.  There are many legitimate escrow services, however, there are just as many phony ones out there.  What's worse, scammers often get a hold of their victims' bank account information and can drain them dry.  
  • You can't take a look at the item for sale, lease, or rent.  The item is in a location you cannot physically get to, perhaps in the middle of Brazil, France, or Ukraine; that's saying if the location is even provided.  Most scammers just provide a fake picture of the item with ambiguous details.  The services are also ambiguous, pretentious, and poorly stated/offered.  You must buy it sight unseen, transfer the money to someone you have never met, and give them all of your personal information in the process so they can steal your identity.  
  • Scammers also request you to do things outside of normal comfort level but use manipulative techniques to bait you and make you fall for their traps.  Ask yourself if you would trust this person enough to invite over for dinner and introduce to your family, then listen to what your logical self is telling you.   If there was any hesitation at all, then it is best to meet in a public place, like a bank's lobby or police station's parking lot.      
  • The scammer is very abrupt, pushy, and wants the transaction done as quickly as possible.  

Finally, the whole thing is too hooky to not be cautious, after all, you did start reading this article for a reason.  The quacking and waddling is too obvious not to notice something is wrong. The whole thing doesn't feel right and when you try to tell yourself this isn't a scam, you still have that tingling thought or gut feeling that it might be.  When in doubt, opt out of the deal immediately and take the evidence to the police.  Sometimes big scamming rings are caught this way.  And even if the police do not take immediate action, if enough people go to the police with these scams then patterns are established and criminals are then easier to catch.