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Beware of Craigslist Scammers

I’ve always had positive experiences with Craigslist.  It has been a convenient way to sell things and we’ve met nice folks along the way.  That is until now!  We were just “almost” the victims of a Craigslist scam.  I’m sharing my experience with you in hopes it will prevent this from ever happening to you!

After advertising a piece of furniture on Craigslist I was contacted via email by a potential buyer.  It was your average inquiry, asking questions regarding condition and what my bottom price was.   A price was settled on and we had a potential deal.

First red flag:  The buyer, lets call him David, was from out of town and was not able to come and personally view the furniture.  He was to mail me a business check for the furniture and then a “shipper” would pick it up.  He would add the shipper’s fees to the check so that I could give their fees to them when they picked up the furniture.  David also added $20 to the deal if I would hold it for him till I received the check.

Second red flag:  David emphasized that because he couldn’t preview the furniture this transaction would need to be based on “trust”.  He confirmed he had sent the check via 2 day priority mail and sent me tracking information.   Next he began to add more details to the transaction.   Instead of giving the shippers fees to them when the furniture was picked up, he instructed me to send the funds to the “shipping coordinator” via Money Gram.  David continued to email me with explanations and emphasizing he hoped he could trust me.  He now offered an additional $30 to me for my inconvenience.

Third red flag:  The total David owed me was now $400.  When I received a check in the mail for $1500. I knew something was really wrong!  After investigating via the internet I found the check was from a legitimate real estate company in Florida drawn from a legitimate bank.  It was the weekend so I couldn’t call the company to confirm my suspicions until Monday morning.

Fourth red flag:  Deciding to call David’s bluff, I simply emailed him with my concerns and asked if he was a scammer.  In his response to me he was understanding of my concerns and continued to try to convince me the deal was legitimate.  These guys definitely don’t give up easy!

I was not surprised when my concern was confirmed by speaking to the owner of the real estate company in Florida.   They had not authorized this check or the many others that had gone out to other unsuspecting sellers.  The real estate company was also a victim.

In the future I will continue to advertise on Craigslist.  I will not disqualify something simply because of a few dishonest people.  But, in the future I will be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Always deal locally with buyers you meet in person.
  • Beware of any offers that involve shipping.
  • Never wire funds (eg. Western Union, Money Gram).
  • Transactions should be between users only (no third party “guarantees”).
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not purchase or rent sight-unseen.
  • Refuse background/credit checks (until you have met the landlord/employer in person).

It is unfortunate that we must learn to protect ourselves from ruthless scammers like David.  I continually remind myself to focus instead on the many kind, honest people in the world around me.

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