Its always a bit discomforting when you realize someone has tried to scam you. Sure I get the normal load of tons of emails from Princes and Kings in Nigeria who want to give me $5 million in exchange for assisting with the money transfer needs. Those are easy to spot as scams. Why in the world would they email me to do that? Why would they offer so much money? Even if all that was understandable, how would I explain the unusual income spike to the IRS? Clearly an easy scam to spot.
Today, however, I have something more frightening as it was less easy to identify. It was not an anonymous one but something clearly targeted towards me. Granted, I’m sure the culprit mass produces his communications, but read on and you’ll understand.
My wife and I are buying a new car, and as such we are selling one of the cars we have. Its about 6 years old with low miles and is a pretty decent car. Kelly Blue Book on the car is roughly $9,000. We’ve already bought our new car and would rather just sell the car we are getting rid of quickly, even if it means a couple hundred less in our pockets. Thus, we set the asking price slightly lower than all the comparable vehicles we found listed.
We listed it on Cars.com and Craigslist on Monday afternoon. By that time Tuesday we had received two emails through Craigslist and a couple of phone calls through Cars.com. Tuesday night we had two people (the two that called) scheduled to come out and take a look. The first one that did gave it a test drive and offered to buy it. The car is now sold. That’s the good news.
The scam in this case involves one of the two emails we got through Craigslist. The other was legit – a dealer looking to resell this, I actually did later speak with them on the phone. Anyhow, here’s the first email I got from the scammer:
I would like to know if you still have the listed item for sale, you could also email me some more pictures as well.
In this case the “listed item” is a car we are selling for $9,000 (approx). Thus, not mentioning anything about the car or that fact that it is a car seemed funny. The subject line of the email did have the car’s description in it, but that is generated automatically by Craigslist. I know this. Other’s might not.
Seemed funny so I just wrote back saying that yes its still available. We just listed it the night before.
This morning is now two days after listing and I open my email to see a long reply from “Jack”. It basically offers to buy the car and give me a couple extra dollars for assisting with the transaction according to his recommendation. The email is below:
Thanks very much for the email , The reason I am sending you this email is to make final reconfirmation of this (INSERT CAR NAME) and also to let you know that payment will be by Certified Check . In view of this I need you to email me any information that may be required to send the payment , as I do not want to send the payment to a wrong location lest they gets into the wrong hands.
Regarding the shipping, I have a company that takes care of the pick up of my consignments for me and ship to my destination anywhere in the U.S.A.,you do not worry about shipping, the company will send down a representative to arrange the Sales documentation and the pick up from your end for onward transfer to my destination.
I also want to inform you on the fact that you will be receiving an overdraft payment , which will cover the money for the pickup (pickup and shipping to the final destination) as well as the money to be paid to the company that will take care of the pickup and the documentation with you. So please, as soon as you receive the payment , go and cash it immediately, deduct the money that accrues to you cost of this 2000 VW Jetta GLS and take a compensation of $100 for stress making you go through, and you will send the rest of the balance to my shipper that handles the shipment via the nearest Western Union agent in your area. Deduct the Western Union charges from the balance and send the remaining immediately.
So i will be sending you a check that will cover the money for the item and also for the shipping, so as soon as you have received the check you will get it cashed and send the rest of the money to my shipper after you must have deducted your money.
The payment will be issued out in your name to make it easier for you to receive payment, deduct your money and send the balance via Western Union as regards my earlier direction.
Once the money is received by the agent, the shipping agent will contact you immediately to arrange the documentation as well as the pick up immediately.
So in view of the above, here are some of the details I will need for final assurance of the payment to you.
(1) Full Name
(2) Mailing address, no p.o.box please
(3) your direct telephone number
Once you get back to me with all the above, the payment will be issued out immediately and it will be sent to you . Hope to hear from you immediately.
Things that tipped me off:
- Nobody offers to buy a used car for $9,000 (which is only slightly below market value) sight-unseen.
- He didn’t ask any questions about the car, options, features, mechanical issues, etc.
- He discussed “shipping” the item. This made me think this is a canned email often used for smaller items. You wouldn’t likely “ship” this car.
- Initial email had a Craigslist-generated warning message that appears standard in all first-contact messages:
** CRAIGSLIST ADVISORY — AVOID SCAMS BY DEALING LOCALLY
** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.html
The above appears in bright colors. The long reply I got was directly to my email address, not through Craiglist’s redirecting address thingamabob. That email, naturally, did not have a scam caution piece.
Anyhow, I had already suspected a scam and decided to reply very briefly and politely. I simply said we had sold the car and that regardless, I would not be comfortable making this transaction entirely through email. Both are true.
Afterwards for confirmation I visited the Craigslist scams page. The wording and approach of the email almost identically matched many of those. In some cases it was a combination of a few of them. Far too close for comfort.
In short, what we really got to me about this was that this was a very active targeting for the scam. The person appealed to me by responding to my solicitation for interested parties. As such, his contacting me was more likely to get my attention and be subject to a much lower level of skepticism than if I had just gotten some scam email out of the blue. Perhaps a more effective technique for these guys. Still disgusting that they can’t just do something worthwhile for a living rather than stealing from others.