I’ve used Craigslist once. I announced a garage sale from which all proceeds would be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. I felt safe advertising the sale because a) it was only scheduled for six hours on a Saturday; and b) several friends and supporters were on site throughout the entire sale so I wasn’t alone. (And of course all items were outside and there was no access to the inside of our house.) The garage sale was a huge success but I haven’t used Craigslist since.
I’m sure many of you have either listed something for sale or purchased an item that was for sale on Craigslist and were very pleased: the money exchanged hands and both parties benefited from the online service.
That was not the case for an acquaintance of mine who was recently set up for a scam but was smart enough to realize that if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, it’s probably a rat. (Bad analogy, but you get my point.) He listed a musical instrument for $400. Someone texted him from a 407 area code indicating that they wanted to purchase the instrument and they would send him a check in a larger amount than was requested so that the seller of the instrument could use the overpayment to ship the instrument to the purchaser. And of course the purchaser would provide the shipping company’s banking information where the money could be wired. My friend’s repeated requests to meet in person were turned down but he agreed to sell the instrument and waited for the check.
While he waited he did some research on Craigslist scams (there were more than 32 million results listed when I Googled “Craigslists scams” today) and he discovered that he was being lured into a variation of the Nigerian check scam. (People who try to pull off this scam aren’t necessarily from Nigeria, but it got its name from a multitude of scams that originated in that country.) In some instances, the purchaser sends a check that he/she “inadvertently” wrote for the wrong amount and when the seller receives it, the purchaser asks that the seller deposit the check and send the difference by wire service. This is an example of too good to be true. Why would a purchaser trust you to return the overpayment amount? He doesn’t need to because the check is no good.
Example: you receive a check for $2000 but the agreed payment for an item was only $1100. You deposit the check and wire $900 to the purchaser. They get the money before their bogus check has even cleared. The bank will require that you reimburse it for the $900, or all of the amount. Depending upon how long it took for the check to clear the bank, you may have already spent the $1100 on household items or your rent/mortgage payment for the month. You’ve spent money that your bank account doesn’t have and you’ll be required to reimburse the bank. This scam is even more troubling when an elderly person is involved who may not be savvy enough to realize that he or she is being taken. How grievous that loss would be for them.
This is what happened to my friend. He received a check in the amount of $1800 which was $1400 above the agreed amount. He texted the purchaser and told him/her that he was contacting the police and Craigslist to report them.
Here’s some must-follow advice provided by Craigslist:
Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
- Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
- Beware of offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person.
- Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
- Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
- Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a “guarantee”.
- Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
Buyer beware. You’re better off having a garage sale, or posting your For Sale items on your employer’s intranet site or bulletin board. At least you’ll be dealing with a fellow employee. That’s what my husband and I have done for larger items that we needed to sell, including a vehicle. Worked like a charm and everyone walked away happy.