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Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Detect a Scammer When You Get a Reply from an ad You Placed on Craigslist

We’ve all fallen for them, but we’ve educated ourselves and now we know how to detect the scammers, don’t we?

Not always.

Though my radar is always on high alert for potential scammers, I completely missed this latest one. I had placed an ad on craigslist to sell  a wheelchair lift. Unlike some of the other scam replies I’ve received over the years, this one seemed legitimate – confusing, but legitimate. 

Matt somebody or other sent the following email to me:

Hi..I don't have your phone number to text, I can be available tonight around 7:00 or tomorrow morning before i go to work around 7:30, or Thursday morning at 9:00 or Friday  evening at 6:00.  Please let me know if any of these times work for you to see me here  (I didn’t want to include the actual email address) Thanks

I responded:

I didn’t get this message until 4:12 a.m. so I’m unclear about the times you can see it. Text me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to let me know if you can see the wheelchair lift at 9:00 this morning or 7:00 this evening. I’ll send you my address if either time works for you.

Until that email, everything seemed to be like any other response I would get from anyone interested in what I was selling on craigslist. And then I got this email:

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.

Address: Not P o Box
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

As soon as I saw that email, my radar went on high alert. Can you understand why? 

The first clue that this was not a legitimate inquiry was that “Matt” changed everything from his original email. At first he was available at several different times, and then suddenly, he was completely unavailable and out of town. Secondly, he asked for my name, which he already had, my address, which he didn’t need, my phone number, which he already had, and the asking price, which he already knew. But the third indication of deception was his final goodbye, stating, that he was “a God fearing person”.

When people try to convince me that they are somehow saintly in an environment where that information is entirely unrelated, I sometimes feel like Harrison Ford felt on the day he was sick and improvised a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. His character, Indiana Jones, originally had a much longer scene, but Jones shot his enemy quickly because Ford didn’t feel well enough to continue. That’s how I felt with this insane emailer. I just wanted to get rid of him quickly. So how did I respond? I wrote back:

I understand. I have too much information to relate in an email, though, so please give me your phone number so we can discuss it over the phone.

Guess what! I never heard from him again.

So bottom line – if you list items on craigslist, be prepared for the crazies to attack you. I’m keeping those emails in case he ever tries to contact me again, so I can report him to the FTC! If you have been scammed, you can contact the FTC, too, or you can click on the links below for even more information about how to detect and report scammers.

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