By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/25/2018
Posted: 10/30/2011
Topics/Keywords: #Craigslist #Scams Page Views: 2940
In which I recognize a Craigslist scam when I see one.

A lot of people avoid Craigslist for fear they will somehow become victims of a scam. That's too bad, because a lot of less fearful people make good use of this tool for getting money for things they no longer want or need. I, personally, have successfully sold many items, including drapes, a floor steamer, and even a DVD box set. Sure, scams exist, but they are actually very easy to spot. And when you do, you have the option of telling the scammer exactly what you think of him or her! So, when you do advertise something on Craigslist, you either successfully sell it, or you get free therapy (and sometimes both). Win-win!

Long-time readers will recall that I bought a house two years ago. They may also recall I almost lost my leg, or possibly my life, last January, and that I lost my job last April when I finally got out of the hospital. (They said they'd hold it for me, then fired me on the last day of what would have been my first full-time week back.) Obviously, this was not conducive to making regular mortgage payments.

We tried getting roommates. My daughter, Jenny, made payments in an attempt to turn the place into a business, a home for recovering addicts. Neither plan worked. And so Jenny recommended selling the house via "short sale".

The problem is, thanks to interest, I owe more on the house than it can, in today's market, be sold for. Fortunately, with the huge number of homes for sale, Arizona has recognized this and passed a law protecting the homeowner from liability if they must sell their home for less than is owed. Forms must be filled out and a ritual followed, but it can be done.

And so, I decided to do this.

And, like many homeowners, I decided to sell the appliances I had purchased when we first moved in. There's nice stuff, like-new: a refrigerator, stove, and so on. And I placed ads in Craigslist to unload them.

Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Color is almond. Like new, cold, efficient! Includes ice maker. I am asking $500 for this top-quality appliance.

Email back or leave voicemail at 623-845-xxxx. This is an awesome deal, so don't let it slip away!

And I included photos of the desirable appliances.

Perhaps I was asking too much—it's true that Craigslist is sort of a virtual yard sale, and readers do not expect to pay showroom prices. Nevertheless, I got a response. A person offered to buy it, and asked when he could come over to see it. I responded with the cross streets and told him I'd give him the exact address when we chose a time to meet. The next morning I got this reply:

Hello, thanks for your reply, there is a slight change in plan.Am sorry i will not be able to come over for checkup due to my grandmother just concluded surgery of cancer,i will be going to stay with her for a least a month,this just came in suddenly and i really love to buy this item, based on the condition of the item you gave me. i was suppose to take a 5 days trip to your town officially and that got changed.My pay check will be coming in nextweek, so am willing to issue you a certified bank check including the movers fund.i am going to responsible for pickup so my mover will come over for pickup in order not to stress you.i will need a name and address to write out the check,probably P.O.Box.Am so sorry i reply late, let me know as soon as you get this message,and i will like you to delete the ad from craigslist. thanks write back

Well, I wrote back, all right.

So sorry to hear about your grandmother. Does she know her son is trying to perpetrate a tired old Internet scam? Did you really think I would imagine there are no refrigerators for sale where you are? Or that I wouldn't know that this scam sends counterfeit cashier's checks to those who fall for it? Shame on you! Don't you realize that, by not being part of the solution to the world's problems, you are part of the problem?! Please reconsider getting a real job. Obviously, it can't be as a spelling teacher, but there must be something you can do to make your worthless life mean something. Surely there's a Wal-Mart near you in need of a greeter.

Here's how the scam works.

The scammer convinces you there is a legitimate reason for not being able to meet with you in person. (I've also been exposed to this in roommate ads, in which the potential roommate lives in the United Kingdom and is trying to arrange lodgings for a proposed trip to the Phoenix area.) Payment, therefore, "must" be in the form of a cashier's check. Many people imagine that, somehow, a cashier's check is beyond reproach. When the check arrives, it is for an amount much greater than that needed. The victim deposits the check. The scammer then either cancels or asks for a refund of the overpayment. The victim provides the refund. Then, weeks later, the bank discovers the check is counterfeit.

Guess who they hold responsible? Not the scammer, I assure you.

And it's true, innocent—or perhaps I should say, ignorant—people have literally lost thousands in this scheme.

So, don't be ignorant. Read Craigslist's scam warning page. Keep yourself informed, and then you can make use of this valuable tool for recycling your unwanted items without fear.

As well as, if you're lucky, getting a chance to unload all your frustrations on the unwary scammer.