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Is this a thing?

Though theoretically there’s a Craigslist covering my area, most of the activity on it is hours away. So I never pay any attention to it.

But I got to looking at Hondas, Toyotas & such yesterday and found one newer-model Honda way, way, way too cheap with no explanation at all. Except there were some cuss marks (&^5$#) in the headline, clearly indicating some sort of story.

I emailed the woman (supposed woman, but who knows), who responded with a tragic account about how the car was in perfect shape but it belonged to her recently killed son (cut down in the prime of his youth by a drunk — while on his way to his little brother’s birthday party, yet) and she couldn’t stand the sight of it. Now she just wants to get rid of it. If I want it, send my contact info.

I’d asked earlier where within my Craigslist area the car was located. She hadn’t replied. When I asked again … she sent me a long story about the car being in Macon, GA, but she had a prior arrangement with eBay motors to ship it anywhere in the country and I’d have five days to inspect it and return it on her dime … blah blah blah. And if you want it send your contact info.

Yeah. Right.

I went back to Craigslist and found — no surprise — that the listing had been pulled. But there was another, for a $2000 Lexus that was so suspiciously similar. Cuss marks in the title, email addy identifying the “seller” as a woman, same basic info about the vehicle as the other listing, incredible price, no location given.

Fascinating. Do people actually send thousands of dollars to strangers for cars they’ve never laid eyes on? Heck, I feel sort of doofussy for responding to the ad at all, let alone giving a moment’s credence to the “tragic” story. But sending money is a whole different thing.

I know Craigslist has all the perils of doing any sort of business with random strangers. I know the ‘Net can be a strange and perilous place. But are vehicle listings like this a known Craigslist “thing”? Or have I just run into some rogue weasel?


ADDED: Some readers seem to think I don’t understand that this is absolutely, without question a scam. I do understant that. I was a little slow on the uptake, but as soon as I heard the BS about Macon, GA, and eBay shipping, I headed right back to Craigslist to report it and I blacklisted the scammer’s email. I’m just wondering how common this particular sort of scam is.


  1. Jim B.
    Jim B. June 27, 2015 9:34 am

    Yes, it sounds like a scam. Unfortunately I have heard Craiglist getting a reputation for people connning other people into transactions and robbing them. Last I heard, someone actually met a seller somewhere only to stick em up, and I also heard that was done in broad daylight too.

    People will do well to remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not.” Even E-bay warns people about scammers.

  2. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2015 9:41 am

    Jim B. — Oh yeah, I’m positive it’s a scam. And I do know that there have been many scams and even several murders perpetrated using Craigslist as a contact point. (In the hysteria over Craigslist nobody ever mentions how many similar crimes have been cooked up elsewhere, say via old-fashioned classified ads.)

    I’m mainly wondering whether this particular scam is a common, known one or if I just happened to hit a small, unusual “crime wave.”

  3. jed
    jed June 27, 2015 10:38 am

    Back when I was car shopping, I came across a number of listings, too good to be true. I simply ignored them.

    Somehow “on the internet” seems to be an intensifier these days. OMG, you can buy guns on the interenet! Yeah, as long as you follow the same rules for buying them any other way, such as from Shotgun News, or your local classifieds (back when newspapers carried such ads, without even blinking).

    I will admit, however, that the world wide web has made it possible for more scammers to target more people.

  4. Bear
    Bear June 27, 2015 10:48 am

    Claire: Yeah, it’s a thing. Out of the tens of thousands of Craigslist listings, they’re really a small minority. But they are there.

    In this case, I expect “she” would have demanded an upfront earnest payment to hold the vehicle for you, and for you to pay the “Ebay motors” fee. If eBay actually has a vehicle shipment service (not counting possible individual listings), I’m not aware of it, and a search at eBay for “ebay motors” or “vehicle shipment” doesn’t turn it up.

    Check your email for something from me.

  5. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2015 11:10 am

    “Back when I was car shopping, I came across a number of listings, too good to be true. I simply ignored them.”

    I normally would have, too. But I admit the cuss marks hooked me. When I contacted “her” I was expecting to hear back with some story about extensive body damage, an infestation of mold, a lemon declaration … something that would justify “her” dumping her car cheaply.

    The story about the tragically dead son should have set off my BS alarm, but it did exactly what it was designed to do: tweak my sympathies so that I was less inclined to be skeptical.

    As soon as I heard the Macon, GA and eBay shipping business, I knew what I was dealing with. But I admit I was slow on the uptake.

  6. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal June 27, 2015 11:29 am

    I have read that when there is lots of random punctuation and nonsense in the headline, it is a sign that this is a scam post that the scammers are being paid by a third party to post, and the odd punctuation is a way for them to show their “boss” that they were the ones posting it. Or something like that. Who knows if it’s true.

  7. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2015 11:40 am

    Interesting. Wow. Whole rings of scammers reporting to scammer bosses.

    One think I will say for “Janette” — she expressed herself more clearly in writing than the average Nigerian. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. mary in texas
    mary in texas June 27, 2015 11:40 am

    My “favorite” scam is the one where someone highjacks an E-mail account and sends out a message to the friends of the victim telling a sob-story about being on a trip and having all their money and credit cards stolen. Naturally all the friends are asked to send money to help out the poor person so that he or she can get home rather than being stranded in some foreign country. Who in the world falls for something so obvious?

  9. Bear
    Bear June 27, 2015 11:54 am

    MiT” Who in the world falls for something so obvious?”

    Deliberately selected gullible people. The scammers are intentionally using over the top sob stories to screen out smart cynics, and select for fools.

  10. Joel
    Joel June 27, 2015 12:05 pm

    I had somebody pull that scam that mary in texas mentioned on me. I didn’t fall for it – exactly – but it did freak me out a bit until I contacted my daughter and found out somebody had hacked her email account. I’d never heard of that one before. Low blow.

  11. just waiting
    just waiting June 27, 2015 1:37 pm

    A few years back, I was shopping for a used car for my daughter and tried Craigslist. 3 out of 5 ads came with the exact same response you got Claire.

    When I told my daughter she said “Really, you found 2 legit ads? Wow”

  12. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2015 2:21 pm

    โ€œReally, you found 2 legit ads? Wowโ€

    ๐Ÿ™‚ Sad commentary. But ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. RustyGunner
    RustyGunner June 27, 2015 2:24 pm

    A friend of mine repairs and sells cars on Craigslist and has a collection of bogus cashier’s checks, some in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, that scammers have sent for his cars.

  14. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2015 2:32 pm

    Holy cr*p. How does he make sure the payments he gets are legitimate? Has one of those bogus checks ever managed to get the scammer one of your friend’s cars, heaven forbid?

  15. RustyGunner
    RustyGunner June 27, 2015 2:42 pm

    The first he ever got arrived when I was managing his office about 9 years ago. It was for $10K, about twice what the car and shipping would cost. He just had to ship the car and send back the change from the check.

    It’s always a little suspicious when I’m the hero in one of my own stories, but in this case it’s true. I’d heard of that scam before and convinced him to take it to his bank and ask them to check. They did, and it was bad. Since then he’s wiser to the scams and always does his due diligence.

  16. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2015 2:54 pm

    “It was for $10K, about twice what the car and shipping would cost. He just had to ship the car and send back the change from the check.”

    Oh, one of those deals. Good catch. I didn’t know how widespread that particular scam was, but I know that animal breeders (among others) get that all the time. Good catch.

  17. Kristophr
    Kristophr June 27, 2015 3:07 pm

    Buy from ebay.

    Sell from craigslist.

    On ebay, buyers often scam sellers by demanding their money back, and getting it. On Craigslist, there is no recourse if the seller is unhappy, or a scammer.

  18. Bob Adkinson
    Bob Adkinson June 27, 2015 4:59 pm

    “Iโ€™m just wondering how common this particular sort of scam is.”

    I think it has much to do with what you are looking for. I have sold a welder, and bought a boat motor and a gun barrel on Craigslist, and there was no hint of scam. I was able to look at the items, and pick them up, and pay when I did so. It’s just common(or not) sense. I am going to list something on Craigslist soon and the plan is to put it on the front porch so if anyone who wants to look at it won’t be able to spot anything in my house that would look appetizing. I think it is common, but only when one neglects to exercise due diligence.

  19. Laird
    Laird June 27, 2015 9:50 pm

    FWIW, I’ve bought, among other things, a truck, a hydraulic log splitter and two banjos through Craiglist, never with any problem. Of course, they were all local transactions, where I could try out / test drive the item, and never involved shipping anything or sending money. And all were cash purchases.

    On the subject of scams, my elderly mother fell for one a few years ago. My son was off at college, and she got an email allegedly from him in Canada somewhere, saying that he had been arrested while on a trip with friends and needed money to pay the lawyer. He was (supposedly) embarrassed to call us (his parents) because it was Mother’s Day weekend and we weren’t supposed to know he was travelling. The email even included the name of our dog (although it had died sometime before, but she may have not known that and in any event it added a touch of credibility to the message). Of course, he wasn’t in Canada (he at school was studying for exams) and hadn’t been arrested, and it was all a scam, but they managed to get her to send a couple thousand dollars via Western Union. They even tried to get more out of her later, but thankfully her bank questioned the withdrawal and I got a call in time to stop it. In a way it’s funny that someone would fall for something like that, but I guess grandmothers can be gullible, and it’s actually quite sad because she couldn’t afford to lose that money. We never talk to her about it.

  20. LarryA
    LarryA June 27, 2015 10:12 pm

    I got an email last week from the FBI notifying me I had been scammed, and asking for personal information to help catch the bad guy.

    Like the FBI would email me for personal information, instead of checking with the NSA.

  21. s
    s June 28, 2015 1:06 am

    I had the same experience about 5 years ago when looking at tractors on CL. I started with no idea what used tractors were worth and so fell far enough to contact a few scammers. It was educational; I learned what was too good to be true in a used tractor’s price.

    My business was called by a woman who had a check with our name on it. Fake of course, she was suspicious and looked us up rather than using the number in the letter that came with the check. We never saw the letter and so I don’t know the con artist’s story, but for a few months there were so many fake checks we put a notice on our website about it.

  22. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 28, 2015 5:02 am

    Years ago, not long after I’d moved to Wyoming, I got a call from someone who claimed to be my eldest grandson, who was about 15 at the time. The caller said he had gone with friends to Mexico and they had gotten in trouble there… needed money to get out of jail (oh sure) and then get home. I listened to the scam and then told him I couldn’t help him, ending the call. I had recorded the caller’s phone number from the phone “ID” – interesting that the area code was in Los Angeles! First I called my son to check on the boy – he was home studying… and then I called the sheriff to report the scam. No idea if anything was ever done about it, but I never got another such call.

  23. Thomas Knapp
    Thomas Knapp June 28, 2015 6:03 am

    “I’m just wondering how common this particular scam is.”

    Pretty common. I ran into it last year:

    I assume that the money is on volume — throw enough “too good to be true” deals out there, and even one taker can be several hundred, even several thousand, dollars in profit — rather than on a large percentage of people being that gullible.

    Another Craigslist scame I ran into is with rental homes:

  24. Hanza
    Hanza June 28, 2015 9:39 pm

    I’ve been entering sweepstakes as a hobby since 1982.

    Contrary to the belief of many, people really do win.

    However… On the flip side there are a lot of scammers out there who contact people by both phone or email saying they have “won”, and all they have to do is send money to pay for such things as taxes in advance, shipping fees, etc.

    You *NEVER* have to pay to receive a prize from a legitimate sweepstakes.

    People regularly fall for the scams, and it is really sad for me to hear about those.

    Rule #1 for sweepstakes: If you didn’t enter, you didn’t win.

  25. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 29, 2015 10:58 am

    “A fool and his money are soon parted.” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Guess what, that is what liberty will look like, heh.

    I have (as a form of entertainment) watched craigslist motorcycle ads for a while. I am convinced out can make some pretty darn good deals on craigslist if you watch it long enough, but yeah, you need to not send money to these folks. Always deal face-to-face. And I always have a gun in case I need it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 29, 2015 11:01 am

    “I am convinced ONE can make…” Sheesh.

  27. Emily
    Emily June 30, 2015 12:42 pm

    I buy and sell on Craigslist. I always use their email service and never give out my email address or phone number. I agree to meet in a public place like the Safeway parking lot. Small items I bring with me in the truck. I never, never agree to meet at my house. If someone does not want to agree to craigslist email, it is a red flag to me. I have even rented my house thru craigslist. Common sense is the byword.

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