Sunday, April 7, 2013

Craigslist: Illustration of a scam

I'm happy to relate that my oldest daughter who is majoring in Engineering has accepted a summer internship with GE Aviation.  This will be a great opportunity for her and will certainly help towards the cost of her education (donations accepted).  It is likely that she will need a car for this experience and as such, we have started checking Craigslist.  As low cost reliable cars are always in demand, it is important to check frequently.  Recent postings are a ripe environment for scammers as sufficient time has not elapsed for Craigslist users to flag suspicious ads.  It was under these conditions that I received the response provided at the bottom of this post which I, undoubtedly, believe to be a scam.

So why am I convinced that this response is a scam?

  • The respondent starts with an apology, "Sorry for my late answer...".  While this may sound courteous, I received the response within about 15 minutes of my inquiry.  Thus, an apology is not appropriate.

  • The classic scam elements:
    • Sympathy:  Sick daughter and "need money for treatment."
    • Urgency:  "I'm under enormous time pressure...need to sell it fast..."
    • Reassurance and attempt to attach to remote payment vehicle "for both of our protection."  This scammer uses Google, others will use Western Union, PayPal or Ebay, etc.  A quick Google search regarding Google Checkout "holding money" makes it crystal clear that you can kiss your money goodbye if you fall for this.  Craigslist is all about local face to face transactions.

  • Inconsistency between situation and behavior - "short on time" yet she is able to concoct a rather lengthy response within 15 minutes plus has had time between hospital visits to post umpteen photos which look to be much more professional than what you would expect from a stressed out divorcee.

  • Inconsistency between ad and "photos".  Craigslist ad was for a blue car; photos showed an orange car.
Within a few days after drafting this post, 2 additional variations of this scam were received.  I'm attaching them as Examples 2 and 3 below.  What this demonstrates is that receiving a scam response is not an isolated event.  Deal locally and remain vigilant of deals that don't sound right.  I realize it makes this post appear long; however, it helps to reinforce the common themes:
  1. Bogus seller will present a seemingly innocent reason why they are out of the area such as recently divorced, oceanographer (travel for work - they may say they are a pilot, in the military, etc).  They may try to also draw you in with their story.  
  2. Bogus seller will identify a payment option where they will never meet you - this could be electronic or asking you to send money. 
  3. Subtle inconsistencies - e.g. A divorcee who is stressed out and an "oceanographer" who is busy, yet somehow they have time to take professional pictures of the car, set them up on a website and despite offering what anyone would characterize as a great deal, need to advertise and find a buyer at the other end of the country.
If you receive a similar scam, I recommend that you delete it and return to the initial Craigslist posting and flag the post.  While it may be tempting to "tease" the scammer a bit, I would recommend that you resist.  They likely have more idle time on their hands than you do and I would not recommend that you tempt fate by engaging with these bottom feeders... and despite that State Farm commercial everything on the internet isn't true and that boyfriend might not be a French model... Bonjour!

Initial Scam Example: 

Sorry for my late answer but I was in the hospital during last days and I was unable to read my e-mail.I'm selling this beautiful 2004 Nissan Maxima because my daughter is in hospital, is very sick and I need money for treatment. I'm under enormous time pressure cause I need to sell it fast, before 31th of March that being the reason for selling it so low.My husband and I divorced last month, after the divorce I was awarded the car. It is in immaculate condition, non-smoker, meticulously maintained and hasn't been involved in any accident... Clear title. The total price is $1,900 including delivery and handling to your address.

Because i'm very busy with my daughter the transaction will be managed by Google Checkout for our own protection as they act as a neutral third part. Google Checkout policy is safe & advantageous for both of us: they will keep the money until you inspect/test the car (you have 10 days for inspection) and in the mean time, offers me the guarantee that you have the amount needed to buy it and you will pay it once you received and accepted it. If the car is not in same condition as I said you will ship it back on my expense and Google Checkout will send you a full refund. But I assure you won't be the case.

Get back to me and let me know what you decide. Thank you for your time and interest.

Please visit this link to see more pictures with the vehicle:

VIN: <<removed>>
Mileage: 78,847

God bless you and your family,
Example 2:

After i finished the divorce i have moved to my parents home in Kearney, NE  for a while, because i think they are only people who can help me to pass this difficult situation.Besides, there are a lot of things which have priority now, so, this car has to go. I took the car here with me. First you have to know that the car is 100% working and looking AMAZING, no scratches or any kind of damage, no engine problems,it has clean title, cleared of any obligations or fees and it is registered in my name.Non-smoking car also.
 I want to tell you that we will use eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) in this transaction in order for both of us to be 100% protected and insured by them. eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) will supervise this transaction so there won`t be any problems.

They will take care of the shipping and all the small details. You will get the car and you will have 7 days of inspection in which you can decide if you buy the car or not. If you won`t like my car (not your case) you notify eBay and you send the car back on my cost,if you want to keep it you announce eBay to send me the money (payment method and all the details will be set up by eBay) and you keep the car. eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection will send you an invoice at your email which you will see how to start this transaction and in were you can see that this transaction is legit. I will also send a Bill of Sale after we register the Transaction. Please get back to me with your full name, full address and phone# so i can forward your details to eBay Vehicle Purchase Protection in order for you to receive the invoice.Here you have the pics of the car:
 Thank you, Donna


On Sat, Mar 30, 2013 at 7:10 PM, MTQ <> wrote:

Where is it?  Are you local?  Thanks

Sent from my iPad


On Mar 30, 2013, at 7:20 PM, Donna xxxxx <> wrote:

Hello ,

I'm sorry for the delay,the car is still for sale. Thanks  for being interested in buying my 2003 Toyota Camry LE Automatic Transmission. It is in a  good condition, no scratches, no damages, never been implicated in any  accidents, no problems at the engine, runs very well. It has an 2.4l engine 39,258 miles, clear title. The price is $2,000. The only thing I am selling its because I divorced with  my husband and after the divorce I own this car, now as a woman I  don`t need it...

Also, I  can send you the pictures and more details too. Just let me know if you  are still interested.

Thank you very much,

Example 3:

I've received your email regarding the Toyota Camry XLE 2.4L L4 FI DOHC 16V engine,with 83,000 miles on it. The car is still for sale and my asking price is $1,800. It is a 2002 model loaded with everything. I'm the first owner. The VIN# is  xxxxxxxxxxxxxx .The car is very well maintained and it has just been completely serviced. The engine runs very good and the automatic transmission shifts perfectly. Very good condition inside and outside, clear title,no accidents, no liens or loans.

I'm an oceanographer and I'm on sea at this moment, so I left the car in Lynnwood, WA  at the shipping company, waiting to be delivered anywhere.Since I'm on the sea, I want to use Google Checkout to do the exchange for me.The payment will be handled by Google Checkout , and you will benefit of 5 days inspection time period and the option to accept or reject the car on my expense

Here are some pictures with the car:

Let me know if you are still interested.


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