January 17, 2011 | By: Roxanne Ramedani

Online scammers – a Craigslist story

It’s usually around the Holiday season when we go hunting for those really good bargains.  I consider myself the bargain Queen.  Recently I decided I wanted to buy a big screen television for my room so I went out to different stores and priced different televisions but I wasn’t satisfied and none of them fit my budget.

 After telling a good friend about the idea he suggested buying a second hand one for a fraction of the retail price through Craigslist.com. Craigslist allows millions of people selling millions of second hand products and sometimes even brand new ones all from the comfort of your home.   Overall the entire site is great if you know how to use it. On the site there’s a specific feature that allows you to ASK the Craigslist community for a certain product and I decided to do just that. In a matter of minutes I had 100 responses from sellers all over the GTA willing to sell me their big screen televisions for abnormally low prices.  I replied to every single one of them and waited for an answer.

 At first I was weary of the idea but the attractive and inexpensive prices kept on drawing me in. And a Bargain Queen can’t say no to a bargain, not to mention such convenience.  I had people who claimed to live minutes away from me who had the exact models I was looking for. I finally agreed to buy a TV from a young musician named Chris.

How do I know this information about my seller you ask? The answer is simple; my seller told me.

My seller told me things I never even asked before he ever went into detail about the television. This should be a huge red light for anyone trying to buy or sell on craigslist, it’s a typical trait of a Craigslist scam artists to give you lots of fake personal information.

 When Chris had initially responded to my ad he wrote me a story of how amazing his life has been and due to his spontaneous lifestyle he is never really in the city therefore never uses his television. I didn’t think much of this unnecessary piece of information because in all honesty I didn’t really care, I just wanted that TV and I wanted it cheap.

We corresponded for almost two weeks until we figured out when we would do the “exchange”. I asked Chris numerous times for a phone number but he would act oblivious to my requests and continue his story about being a musician.

Originally the plan was for him to deliver the TV and I would pay him on spot. The day of the exchange he emailed me saying he had been offered a gig in New York and wouldn’t have access to a phone but would instead send a friend to pick up the money and would then send the television through a third party moving company. He also asked me to pay him for the deposit he would be putting down for the move and that he would pay me back when he got back. Chris assured me that all I’d have to do was give the money to his friend or open a pay-pal account and transfer him the money.  I read the email and couldn’t believe the nonsense I was being forced to understand.

Bargain Queen loves Bargains but she isn’t dumb. I replied to Chris refusing to do such an exchange and he never replied...ever.  

I was obviously upset so I went back to finding a new buyer and as I read emails between myself and other sellers I realized half of these people had given me similar stories. Coincidently none of them had access to a phone or would be able to actually show up for the exchange. I was furious.

I later contacted Craigslist to give them a heads up about the situation in which they replied with an entire list of things one should avoid while using their site. The list goes as following:

  • DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON - follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on craigslist.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
  • CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification"
  • NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)

And I have to say... I completely agree with their list. Nevertheless it’s still very difficult to fish out a scam artist from a real genuine seller but by following this list you can be sure you have the tools to avoid scams as much as possible. And if you do ever run into a scammer you can always go to http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/ to find out more information on how to prevent or stop such fraud.


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