Craigslist Scam – My Personal Experience

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 and Craigslist on Monday afternoon. By that time Tuesday we had received two emails through Craigslist and a couple of phone calls through 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 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:

  1. Nobody offers to buy a used car for $9,000 (which is only slightly below market value) sight-unseen.
  2. He didn’t ask any questions about the car, options, features, mechanical issues, etc.
  3. 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.
  4. Initial email had a Craigslist-generated warning message that appears standard in all first-contact messages:

** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info:

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.

23 thoughts on “Craigslist Scam – My Personal Experience”

  1. Wow, “Craig” from Craigslist. What an honor!

    I understand that the more popular a site (or idea for that matter) the more a small number of people are to use it for scams and illegitimate activities. Craigslist is a large target so hopefully my story here simply helped to shed a little light or personal example on what shape this typ of scam can take.

    Aside from all this, I recently placed a job ad on Craigslist and have gotten quite a few great responses! Definitely a fan, just a shame there are those who try to scam their way to a living.

  2. There are lots of things about scammers that surprise me. That they feel it’s easier to scam than to make an honest living is one. But the big one for me is that in many cases people are willing to scam for such small amounts of money. As the victim, innocence about this fact often throws you off your guard.

  3. I just had someone try the same thing on me. It’s really too bad that nothing can be done about it but I suppose we have to take the rough with the smooth on this internet thing.

  4. Hello, yeah that is a shame that these people scam others, i mean..get a job quit wrecking other peoples lifes, they scammed me once and tried like 5 other times.

    I had a playstation 2 that i got from a friend for free, it was worth about 100 bucks and i already had one, so i decided to go to craigslist, i heard about it when i was visiting california, so i gave it a go, a guy emailed me saying if i stil lhad it and asked the condition, he also asked what the last offer was, he wanted to buy it for his cousin in nigeria, i said 100 dollars is what i want, hes like well ill give you 140 and ill pay for shipping, he gave me an address in nigeria, to get fed ex to put on the label, he tehn said hed pay 170! im like well thats weird why would he do that, from 100 to 170, anyways i sent it, i never got my money i kept emailing him, he emailed me like a week later, and said that he didnt recieve it. i was pissed. and my friends selling his blackberry and some guys emailed him and said a story along the same line, and my friend wont believe me, thanks and yes it would be an honour to have craig on your website.

  5. i did a search for part of an email i got from a buyer on craigslist and came across this page. I asked the guy to give me his phone number so i can call and work this out in conversation instead of dealing with emails. his reply was, “hello how are you over there?
    am very sorry for the late mail . sorrry i cant call you ,cause i have a bad hearing and i wish to buy the item from you .if your really want to sale the item for me, send me your addresss and i will issue out the payment to you today okay.
    i will be waiting to hear from you have a nice day”. At this point i was convinced it was a scam so i continued to play his little game without sending any of my information but After questioning everything he wrote in his broken f*ck’d up english i guess he gave up cause he hasnt emailed me back. SCAM AVOIDED:grin:

  6. If you smell a rat on any deal, reply to them using an anonymous email client such as:

    Keep your cloak of anonymity that craigslist provides. This email service allows replies. If they’re dishonest, you won’t hear back from them. If you do, they think you’re an easy mark. Ignore them. Pull a disappearing act.

  7. i go t scammed from someone on craigslist and i think it was the guy with the jetta becuase the wording is almost exact same wording. what can i do to catch this guy……

  8. I’ve got the $2500 check (written on an account in Alabama, sent in an UPS envelope from TX, and am supposed to send the “extra” money to someone in Massachusetts!! I’ve written them and told them I will western union the money to them as soon as it clears my bank! Be interesting to see what their next step will be.

  9. As I’m sure you all know, these scams are not exclusive to Craigs List. I was selling my car on and was contacted by someone wanting to send me a payment by mail and wanted personal information to do it. He kept asking the same generic questions in every email. That sent up two red flags – either he’s too stupid to be driving, or he’s not reading my emails. Same situation, different company.

  10. I had a few miscellaneous items listed on Craiglist—about 100 bucks in all. Got the same scam e mail. My response was “eat a dick” just for some humor. The response back was “We find terms conditions and price acceptable. What a laugh.

  11. I have several items up for sale in one ad on craigslist, each with it’s own price. I did this at about 12:30 in the morning. When I got back to my computer the next day, I had two inquiries already, one came at 3:40 a.m. and the other at 8:00 a.m.
    Both of the emails came from gmail accounts. Both had the same formatting of the username (e.g.
    Both had rather generic names associated to the email address (one from Mike Bain, the other Henry Evans) so that it looks like its coming from a guy down the street.
    And the kicker, both emails asked if the “item” was still available or still for sale.

    This just stinks of scam. I did respond to each with “would you be more specific.”

    I’ve sold serveral items on craigslist in the past and find it a great thing. But I know I’ve seen this type of generic email in the past too.

    Thanks for the blog…. Mike in St. Louis

  12. Same thing here, selling a couch on craigslist and got two replies both scams!! I attached them below for you all to see! Beware ppl!!!

    Hello ,
    Thanks for your quick response, I am quite satisfied with the condition of the item and price.Am very much interested in buying the item from you and I would like to make an outright purchase immediately so I will advice that you withdraw the advert from the web. I don’t mind adding $50 for you to do that. I will be paying with a certified bank check.

    Furthermore my mover will be coming over for the pick up as I might not be available to come for the pick up myself but am OK with the information from the ad. I will need the following information details to make payment arrangement done asap.

    1,Your full name to be on the Payment.
    2,Your mailing address including zip code.
    3,Your phone number both land and mobile.

    I will be awaiting your response which should entail these information.Best Regards. ? from johnnygravity100 []


    Thanks for the mail,am okay with the price and will like to tell you that am paying via money order or cashiers check and also make arrangement with the shiping company for the pick up.i will like you to get back to me with your full names and address for me to mail out the payment to you.

    PLEASE NOTE……The payment i will be sending will be of excess this you will give to the shiping company for the pick up when they contact you.all you need to do is to get the money verified and faithfully deduct your own money and send the balance to the shipping company through western union.The shiping company will contact you as soon as you receive the payment.please let me know if this sounds good to you.i will be waiting to read from you soon.And the payment will get to you as soon as possible.

    From larry cromwell []

  13. thanks for the headsup about mike bain.took me a minute to think “why such an American sounding name and poor writing skills.Raised red flags but you confirmed it. Wrote some scathing reply’s.Had a doll for sale on craigslist for $125. He replied “I must have this for my collection” – weird. Could only imagine him saying it with a hiss. Like a mad scientist.

  14. her is his mail

    — On Sat, 3/14/09, Mike bain wrote:

    From: Mike bain
    Subject: Re: Doll Dorothy
    Date: Saturday, March 14, 2009, 4:35 AM

    Thanks for the prompt response and i will love to make an instant
    purchase i will be posting a certified check to cover the cost of the
    goods while you hold on my behalf. Once you have this,my mover will
    come pickup at you place.I will be needing the following information
    to issue out the payment . . .
    1.Name to be on the check
    2.Home address
    4.Your city and zip code
    ** Pls not that the payment for the good will be overnight to your
    address asap. I have taken a close look at the advert and am
    completely satisfied i really need this and will appreciates that you
    help save this for me till the payment arrives as it will save me
    someextra cost* thx

  15. We too got a strange offer from Larry Cromwell… To go even further he tried to play a “disability” coin. See below. Never proceeded due to this posting, thanks for sharing your story – you may have saved us the grief…

    Thanks for your response and am very happy the (ITEM) still
    available,well am very much okay with the picture and description of the item.But you have to bear with me and have the sympathy of my (DISABILITY OR PHYSICAL CHALLENGE).I will not be able to come over in person to have a look at
    it, This will not stop me sending you the payment for the item because of the great passion i do have for the item,and have financial firm that will issue out your payment to you, and will be deliver to you via fedex, dhl or ups with overnight delivery.

    Regards the pickup,i have a reputable movers that pick up any goods at anywhere so you don’t bother yourself about the pickup.Now am proceeding in making out your payment which the mode of the payment will be bank check and as
    soon as the arrive and the funds available the pick up will take place.

    I will like you to forward me this information below for the payment.

    Your Full Name………….
    Contact Address……………NO P.O BOX
    Contact Phone Number………..

    Looking forward to read from you.

  16. so this def happened to me, and I actually bought it. I sent money to this guy and I finally caught on. I’m only 20 and didn’t really think that scamming someone like this and getting away with it was possible, and therefore i bought it. But now I’m out $1000 and have no house. He was offering a house for rent. So I’m broke and feel totally embarrassed and retarded. Wish I would have investigated this further before taking action.

  17. Well someone tried to scam me. I responded to an add for a personal assistant. And supposedly i got the job. But they were asking me to cash a check, take my pay and send the rest to the office mananger. Because supposedly the person i would be workign for is out of state. But they have a website for the actual person attached to the email. And when i clicked on it, there was a big red warning sign saying, that basically any AD on CL syaing that he was looking for an assistant was a scam.

    Thank God i am paranoid, anytime i see anything about sending money through western union to people i don’t know i gotta start researching.

    But here’s my question, supposedly the check should come tomorrow, so what do i do with it? Throw it out, go to the cops? I’m not going near my bank with it for sure.So what do I do?

  18. Kmala, my daughter is in the same boat right now as you are. She is 17 and has recieved 2 cashier checks to be a personal assistant. I am so glad I saw the fedex package before she did or she would’ve went to cash them. I worked at UPS and Fedex and seen this happens way too many times and have heard of this scam – but what to do with the checks, I’m not sure – does anyone know??? Def do not cash them obviously – I just told her to repackage it up and write refused/rts (return to sender) and send it back.

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