Craigslist Scam? You Decide…

In an effort to free up some garage space and put a few extra bucks in the piggy bank, we decided to list an antique dresser on Craigslist.  We got a fairly quick reply the day after posting our ad and here is what unfolded…

From buyer:

Re:  Dresser!

Just call me to set up a time to meet. I work from home so usually available during the day and evenings.I am going out of town late Sunday night for 1 week so tomorrow or next is the best time otherwise it will need to be after I return please get back to me at  email address removed      Thanks

So we think, “Awesome, let’s get this thing sold!”  We Reply…

Hello! I will be around between 1-3 tomorrow if you want to stop by and see the dresser. My phone number is removed.  You can call/text/email if that works for you!
Thanks

Eager to unload this bulky furniture and set up the world’s greatest work shop with our new found floor space, we check our phones and email every ten minutes. Nothing.  Nothing.  Then, finally, an eternity and two hours later…

From buyer:

“Hello! let’s do like this, actually now I’m not in town for now, I came to visit my son so i wont be able to meet with you but am ok with the condition as seen on the advert, I’ll proceed in issuing a Check out to you and when you received the check , I will make arrangement for pick-up. So get back to me with below details asap.

Name:
Address:
City:
State:
Postal Code:
Phone Number:
Last Asking Price:

 And as soon as this is provided, the payment will be overnight to you and i will let you know when its mailed out. I need you to be honest with the sale as I am a God fearing person”

Hmmm….  Okay, so as an English teacher, my grammar cringe meter is screaming in the red.  There are a few things wrong at this point:

  • First email: works from home.   Second email: visiting son, now out of town, cannot meet in person
  • Getting pushy.  Never a good sign.
  • Introducing 3rd party into the situation (someone to pick up the furniture), maintaining anonymity.
  • Introducing a time limit to get us into a pressured sale.
  • Paying with a check (which may not clear until after the furniture is delivered).

And then there’s the last line.  This is the disturbing piece of psychological deviance.  “I need you to be honest with the sale as I am a God fearing person.”

Questioning my integrity and claiming a position of moral superiority puts me in a position to defend my honesty by going through with a sale that has already made me feel uncomfortable.  If I back out, I look like the one trying to scam the buyer.  If I go forward, maybe the buyer will believe that I’m an honest person.  Devious!  Of course that’s assuming that this person is actually trying to scam us.

So, what do we do at this point?  Just to be sure…we move forward one small step, but we introduce an element of our own requirement for the sale:

“Hello. Thank you for your interest in the dresser.  In our Craigslist transactions, we prefer cash or cashiers check. We unfortunately have had issues with personals checks in the past.
Let me know if you are still interested.”

This time it takes about a day for the reply, nothing terribly strange there.

From buyer:

Thanks for getting back to me with your info.i do contact my sectary
now to issue the payment to you,because am now out of the state for
business trip.You will receive the payment through UPS or FedEx
Courier services with the shipping funds. to cover the shipment of the
goods i bought from you. Once you receive the check, have it cashed and deduct
your money for the goods also Deduct $100 for your running around that
I have caused you during the transaction period and send the remaining
funds to the mover,and the mover is also picking some other valuable
goods (like household, furniture’s and electronics set.) at the same
city of your location,to my new apartment.that is why you need to help
me and transfer the amount to the moving company..Please let me know
if i can trust you, so that i can move forward from here.I will get
back to you with tracking number immediately the secretary email me
the tracking number. Best Regards

HOLY GRAMMAR GODS!

Here’s the scam…The buyer will send a check that will initially clear, for more money than was asked for.  I am to give the additional money (which came from my account) to the aforementioned 3rd party, in cash.  The 3rd party will pick up the dresser and disappear.  The bank will then contact me to let me know (possible weeks later) that the check was bogus, which means that I will then be out:

  • The initial asking price of the dresser
  • The additional amount I was asked to pass on to the 3rd party
  • The dresser itself

This is why I teach my English students that grammar, and how you represent yourself in the written world, is so important.  It might have taken us another forty-five seconds to realize that this person was a fraud if they had actually taken the time to spell things correctly and use proper punctuation.

ALSO!!  Take a look at the structure of that last email.  It is blocked in an inconsistent and non-linear structure.  In other words, it was obviously not hand written into a typical email client that would allow for the formatting of the lines to fit my reading pane.  It was copied and pasted from a document that is used over and over again.

Here was our final response:

Hello,

We have decided not to continue with this transaction.  In order to assure that both parties are completely comfortable with any sale, we will only do “in person,” cash transactions.  Please do not send a check as we will not accept it.  Good luck with your future purchases and thank you for your interest.

What I would like to have said…well, that just isn’t proper language in any realm of existence outside of my own head.

For those interested in an excellent list of Craigslist scams, this article was extremely helpful in identifying our particular attempted scam experience.

http://www.moneycrashers.com/types-common-craigslist-scams/

What do you think?

Oh, and incidentally, if anyone is looking for an antique dresser…