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Craigslist Car Scams on the Internet - a True Story
Beware of Craigslist Car Scams
Scams on the internet or scams on Craigslist. You never think it will happen to you then along comes a friend or family member that have either been duped out of their money through the internet or are trying to figure out if they've unknowingly just been scammed themselves.
Last week I saw a new twist on a Craiglist scam - using EBay and a fake email account - and the almost victim was a close family member of mine. Luckily the person came to me first to check out the transaction, and fortunately for them I did some sleuthing around to indeed uncover that there was a scamster out to bilk him out of $1,200.
So how did the scam work? I'll tell you in detail so that this doesn't happen to you. Follow along...
Original posting: What a Craigslist Car Scam looks like
Too good to be true? Probably is!
I'll call the potential victim "John" to protect his privacy.
John came to me because he was buying a car on Craigslist for $1,200 and wanted my advice about the Craigslist internet transaction.
"John" was buying a car from someone that had placed an ad on Craigslist (and for the record John has bought and sold a few cars on Craigslist) John had answered an ad for a car that was about 35 miles away. The "seller' claimed to be a leitenant in the army and said he was stationed out of town. He said he was selling the car because his wife and him were getting a divorce. And BTW, all this was divulged through email because the seller NEVER gave John his phone number (claimed he couldn't because he was on duty)
RED FLAG #1 ! Never deal with a person that cannot or will not give you a vaild phone number!
RED FLAG #2 ! Beware of dealing with people that claim to be "out of town" or "out of the country".
RED FLAG #3 ! Beware of people that only want to deal with you through email!
Craigslist scam using fake EBay's Buyer Protection Plan
Next John calls me to take a look at his emails because the buyer wants John to be "protected" on his car purchase by using "the EBay buyer protection plan". The seller was going to arrange "shipping" of the car to John since he was "out of town on duty in the army".
Because I had previously bought a car on EBay and had it shipped from back east, John thought I would be a good person to advise him. In fact, I had even used the EBay buyer protection plan myself (but my car was bought through an actual EBay listing)
So I open up Johns email to look at the "receipt" for the EBay buyer protection plan that the seller was recommending. At first glance, the email looked like a real receipt straight from EBay themselves. All the colors, wording and information looked correct and trustworthy. Had John acted on this alone, he would have truly thought this was an honest to goodness receipt.
On the EBay "receipt", Western Union was requested as the form of payment on the car.
Being the sleuther that I am, I was not feeling right about telling John to go ahead with the transaction because something in my gut was telling me something was not right about the transaction (because of the previous red flags that were raised - an out of town seller without access to a phone)
So I went to the EBay site and learned that Western Union is NEVER advised as a form of payment (PayPal is preferred) and there were posts in the forum there about the "Craigslist-EBay car scam". I pulled one of the replies from a poster there that summed up what I had been looking for - that YES this was a scam:
"You've asked yourself twice if this is too good to be true.
Yes it is. It is a scam. You can't pay for anything through eBay - especially items not listed on eBay.
You can purchase items on eBay and pay for them based on the seller's payment terms (usually PayPal).
If the item isn't listed on eBay, it has nothing to do with eBay.
There is no car. It is a scam.
Good you asked before going further..."
Craigslist car scam RED FLAGS:
- Cars are priced far below current market value.
- The seller claims to be in the military and is stationed overseas.
- The posting does not include a phone number.
- The seller will demand that you use an online escrow service of their choice.
- The person receiving the call is referred to as a "pickup agent."
- Payment must be wired to or from another country. Western Union is often requested.
- The buyer or seller is very anxious to conclude the transaction.
In Johns case, the "EBay receipt" that he had received via his email had an altered transaction number with a request for payment to be made via Western Union. THIS WAS A FAKE RECIEPT, AND EBAY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TRANSACTION. Another red flag was that the EBay receipt came straight from the sellers email, not EBAY. Another RED FLAG!!
Below is a screenshot I took of the fake receipt sent to John from "Ebay". Looks real, doesn't it?
Email sent in fraudulent internet Craigslist car scam
Craigslist advice on buying and selling (from the Craigslist website)
- Trust your instincts
- Deal only with local buyers and sellers
- NEVER wire funds to a distant buyer, via Western Union or any other carrier
- Be wary if the other party wants to use an escrow service such as BidPay, Squaretrade, or even PayPal
- NEVER give out personal financial information (eBay or PayPal info, checking account number, SSN, etc.)
- always remember the most important rule -- BUYER BEWARE
This advice isn't specific to Craigslist. It's just all-around good advice. Below are the top three Craigslist scams.
- The buyer or seller doesn't live near you.
- The buyer or seller wants to pay by cashier's check, US Postal Service money order, Western Union, or escrow service (BidPay, Squaretrade, etc.).
- The buyer or seller won't agree to meet with you in person.
If you happen to see something on Craigslist that looks scammy, you should send an email to "email@example.com" and give them as much detail as you can about the listing. Make sure you include URL (or 8 digit post ID number) in your email. If you're selling something and you think a con artist has expressed interest, forward it to "firstname.lastname@example.org"
And make sure you are really on Craigslist!
More Craigslist advice from this author:
Read about how the author has used Craigslist to sell everything from World War 2 radio equipment to landscapers plant and garden "specials" :
How to use Craigslist to find a job. First hand experiences of the author:
If you love animals but can't keep them or need to find a home for them this is a good read about "selling" pets on Craigslist (which is not allowed BTW - you can only ask a modest adoption fee):
How to find a lost pet using Craigslist.The author found her dog this way. Plus other tips on how to find a lost pet:
More on using Craigslist for creative things like "plant swaps" under services and events:
Knowledge is POWER - Beat the Scammers!!
I hope this article has been helpful to you and that by writing this you will save yourself and family/friends from being scammed. By speaking up and asking questions, we may be able to save some people from losing money to these devious Internet scamsters. We need to fight back, and knowledge is power. I have a real interest in this because my son was shot and robbed trying to buy a car on Craigslist, and no family should ever have to go through what we did. My sons story is here - thank God he survived but the scamsters that robbed and shot him have not been brought to justice as far as I know.
Another close friend of mine lost his life savings to the Internet Nigerian scam - $8,000 - and never had any recourse for the money lost. His story is here.
Craigslist is a great resource for buying and selling items, renting and finding a job. I am a big advocate of Craigslist but as in anything safety, common sense and being informed are CRITICAL to having a safe experience when buying online. Do not let yourself fall victim to the Craigslist car scam or any other internet scam - if something seems too good to be true it probably is. Stay safe!
(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer/publisher on the internet and writes about a broad variety of topics - conspiracies, kids, health, product reviews among many other topics of the day)
Poll about your Craigslist use
Do you use Craigslist to buy or sell things?
- Answers.com - How does the Craigslist and eBay car scam work
Online Shopping question: How does the Craigslist and eBay car scam work? The ad usually offers a very good deal on a car and looks very legitimate. The seller appears to be looking out for your best interest,
- Craigslist Scams
Craigslist is a great service but if you deal with people you aren't meeting face to face you risk getting scammed.