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A Scam Artist on Craigslist Gets it Back - Searching the Mind of a Criminal

Updated on August 8, 2009

'05 Red KLR 650 - $3800 (Sacramento)

What follows is an email conversation between a scam artist and me. I have received way too many of these emails lately and this latest one started me thinking - what if I played the exact same game back? The evil one inside of me laughed with wicked delight and made plans to balance the scales the very next day. Here is the first email from "Wheechel."

Is this item still available for sales? Please get back to me with your phone number...

Hmmmmm. Okay, notice the use of the word "item" to describe my motorcycle? Yes it was for "sales" (plural), but I wasn't completely sure that this was a scam and decided to write the "buyer" back just in case.

Hello Wheechel,
yes this "item" is still available. This is an interesting email, I've had some scammers contact me lately asking about an "item". Would you please verify that you are indeed a real buyer by sending me your number, and perhaps maybe a little more specific knowledge of the "item" you're interested in. I do apologize if you're an honest buyer.

Note that I made sure to delete the description in the subject line of the email and did not mention what the item was specifically in my return email. This is Nincompoop's response:


Thanks for your prompt reply.I really appreciate your detailed breakdown and frankness on this. I tried calling your phone# but didn't get through. sure i'll make a try later when im
free.Unfortunately, Im on my way to uk on an official trip(I'm a marketing Executive) and wont be back for another two weeks, I would have come to inspect the Item personally. Im taking your word for true on It though . Im okay with the price, I think it worth it anyway. If you'd like to know, Im relocating to the UK soon and I'm trying to gather some good stuff for my new abode.Im buying yours amongst others,quickly! before some one else grabs
it.So, I'll arrange to send you payment ASAP.

However, I'll have to notify my shipper who's helping me move my stuff from the US,to get set for the pickup of the item from your place as I MIGHT be delayed in India depending on how things goes.Thanks,
PS: In the mean time, kindly get back to me with your contact address and also your home phone# so I can get certified check prepared and have it sent out to you ASAP.


Huh? what breakdown? I didn't tell him anything! I suppose I was being frank, but since he couldn't tell me what I was being frank about, he had no clue whether I was being frank or not. At this point, I decided that these must be preset lines that the criminal copies and pastes into the body of the email. But that doesn't make sense either since the language structure is so bad, you would think that if Nincompoop had someone writing it for him, he wouldn't know how to put it together. I think there's something bigger going on here, maybe there is one mastermind pulling the strings, a fat Nigerian, (no dig on Nigerians, that's just where the bulk of internet scams seem to originate), sitting behind twenty computer screens busily typing away with nary the minute to proofread anything or even read his "clients' " emails.

Then there's the mystery of the claim that he tried to call my number and didn't get through. Since he and I both know that I haven't divulged that information, I have to assume that he is using another tactic to wrangle it out of me. Human psychology is weird. When someone challenges you, and you feel that you are in a compromising public situation and you refuse to give in, there's a slight bit of guilt at "causing" the manipulator distress. So when they smile and raise their eyebrows and ask you the same question in a roundabout way that assumes you meant to give them what they wanted, you might be tempted to give in. So Wheechel is either doing that, or he is just fishing randomly by trying different combinations of words and intent. I think the former rather than the latter is true as can be seen by his last email, but we are not there yet.

I think that Nincompoop is writing this out for each email, because at one point he abbreviates United Kingdom with small letters (uk), and a few lines down correctly (UK). So what we have here is a semi-intelligent lazy slob that is used to success in his chosen career. It is a known fact that criminal activities are often a lucrative undertaking, but how can anyone live with themselves preying on the naiveté of others and taking what they did not earn and leaving the victim to pay the bill?

Lastly, the deception of Nincompoop being an affluent, busy, traveling businessman is supposed to impress and awe and make the seller feel small, which makes him more willing to please. The seller's eyes are supposed to get bigger, realizing that this "traveling businessman," has a lot of money and power merely because he has the ability to "have" his shipper come by to pick up the "item." It makes me sick, because in addition to taking your money, they might be brazen enough to steal your car or bike and leave you with nothing. If I EVER get the chance to take these demons down, I will. I have to remind myself that the Lord said, "Vengeance is mine."

I can see there are two ways this bum can scam me. He will either send me a check that will simply bounce and steal the bike, or he will come up with some ridiculous story about how due to legal issues, he has to write a bigger bogus check and please could I cash it and give him the remaining amount, with a little bonus for myself of course. Not only is Nincompoop a criminal when doing this, but he automatically makes me one too! I even had one scammer begin to explain how to make a fake check. When I read things like "printer's ink," I had to put aside my disbelief and accept that this nut was actually teaching me how to make a fake check. That might be a Federal offense, I'm not sure. But I'm sure as hell not rooming with Bubba.

Normally they demand a home phone number and a home address. They NEVER give away any contact information. I wonder why? Obviously this buffoon, uh, sorry, I mean Nincompoop, thinks the deal is moving ahead and right on track. Little does he know there is a watchful hawk under this sheep-like exterior, I want to get him. But even hawks miss nine out of ten times.

Here is my first attack.

Great! I am so relived to be able to sell the item. Thankyou thankyou thankyou. My name is Ray Barstow, and I am redy to sell. Please send me your fone number ASAP so I can contact you. Last week, my wif went into laber and I dropped my cell fone in drivway to the E.R., and before I could go back and retrive it, an ambalance had run over it! I am sooooo mad. Anyway, my provider is Verizon and they refuse to replace the fones, can you believe it? So now I have no fone and I can only call from a pay fone. Please, I'm dasparate, give me your # qikly because I don't have the money to buy a fone until I sell the Nisan to you. I also have use the money pay off the medecul bills for the hospitel since I just lost my job and all I have is 10 dollars in the bank, (and a secret stash in my house, but I cant tell anyone about or use unless it is a big emergencie), so as soon as I can sell the car, the sooner I can get my feet. Please help, this important to me. I will even lower the pryce for you because you seem like honast guy and you have to make carful arangents to get overseas yurself, so I understand you totallly. Email me your number soon so we can get this proccesed immediately and help each other out. Sincerely Ray Barstow.

My apologies to anyone whose name is Ray Barstow. I tried to pick a generic but yet unusual name and this had a nice ring to it. Obviously I overdid it, but I meant to, I wanted to give him a little of his own medicine, and I was counting on him to be stupid, and that was what I was testing out. This is why I claimed to be selling a Nissan, completely different than a motorcycle, which is what Nincompoop originally contacted me for. In the next email you can see he has no idea who he is dealing with at any one time because he doesn't mention the fact that it's a car instead of a bike. I also tried to entice him with a small stack of cash, but that was more of a wasted effort because he is running an honest scam here, he is not an ordinary thief! Sniff. But I was also trying to keep his attention with the idea that I had resources he could possibly use to exploit me with. The submissive and dependent behavior was meant to make him feel that he had me, but he is very focused on his proven tactics. It makes me mad that using the same language with him, the spelling errors, the manipulation, the sob story, has absolutely no effect, which in my eyes makes him the most rancid of liars, someone who deserves a very unpleasant fate.

I will wait until you get a cell phone because currently am on my way out of the country but my shipper will come for the pick up after we might have concluded the transaction..kindly get back to me with your contact address and also your home phone# so I can get certified check prepared and have it sent out to you ASAP.


So now Nincompoop thinks that he can just keep chugging away and give me the same bull. If he suspects I am only trying to manipulate him, he wouldn't bother writing back. If he really thinks I am serious, that means I have succeeded in completely fooling him. This gives me some hope, but he is a hard head and knows what works. But now he is so lazy he won't even bother to acknowledge my aforementioned troubles. This makes him one of the lowest forms of life in my eyes, (not THE lowest, but close), he uses a proven formula, and once he thinks it works, he doesn't even bother with the pretense anymore and if you were to look him in the eye, he would stare at you like you were a dead piece of meat, waiting for you to keep going through the motions and expecting that you are not expecting reciprocal behavior. That's not just lazy, but evil. Here's my last email that went unanswered, and I think that it was not answered because he lost interest since I could not fill his step by step formula with the information needed.

I am very disappointed, I can't get a fon and you ar putting me in a bind, I gess I will have to wait for someone else! why wont you giv me you number? We ar livng atmy wifs mothers and cant giv out that address. Irely want to mak this deal wit you, I desperaty need the money or we wil hav to muv out next week! can you giv me a number when you get to india or UK when you get ther? I'll do anythig, i'll even lower the pryce for you 400 dollars, if only i had a way to contac you. Please send me a # soon, you have al the money, i can't even afford a pay as you go fone! Thaks for you help, Mr. Barstow.

Maybe next time I will be more slick, tell the scammer that I don't have a phone, but give him a phone number to a phone booth and a time to call and see if he takes the bait. Hopefully a home address can be substituted with some sort of temporary mail pickup at a post office, (not a PO Box since there might be a way to trace my name), and if the check is big enough, maybe get some fingerprints off of it? I'll see. I wonder if these people could even be located, they are probably out of the country, at least that part may be true.

I hope you have enjoyed this study of how scammers dance in cyberspace, and who knows, maybe it will help you in future dealings with freaks like Wheechel. My bike is still for sale by the way, and it is now going for 3000. Of course, if you're scammer, you'd better be really slick, I'm watching for you.

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