Know Your Scam

You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

-Obi-Wan Kenobi


Old Ben Kenobi may have been referring to Mos Eisley, but in retrospect he may have been warning Luke Skywalker about the types of people he would run across on Craigslist.

If you have listed anything for sale on Craigslist you have probably been a target for scumbag scammers. I know that the job postings and apartment listings can be equally villainous places, but I have not had the misfortune of utilizing either.

Inevitably someone will contact you about a listing willing to pay full price and some extra to cover the hassle of shipping, holding onto the item, etc. Red flag #1.

When the cashier’s check finally arrives from this prospective purchaser it will be for an amount more than the agreed upon sale price plus handling. Sometimes it will be a lot more. In my case the cashier’s check was for more than $1,300 over the agreed upon purchase price. Red flag #2.

The cahsier’s check will look authentic, but it will likely be “issued” from a bank with no physical branches near your location. Red flag #3.

You will contact the prospective purchaser about the discrepancy in the cashier’s check amount and they will spin a yarn that is one step removed from a Nigerian prince trying to recover his frozen assets. Red flag #4.

Finally, the prospective purchaser will ask that you just deposit the check and wire the remaining money to him in order to settle things. Red flag #5.

Why do people fall for this? Ignoring the first four red flags, which are all hallmarks of a scam as laid out by Craigslist and others, people fall for this scam because they take the cashier’s check to their local bank and it gets deposited. People think that once the check has been deposited at the bank that it has cleared and the money is real. Whoops. This is not the case since the bank merely places the funds virtually in your account balance—you will see a difference between total funds and available funds—until the check actually clears. In that period of float the scumbag scammer is hoping that you wire the money to them before getting wise to the fake cashier’s check.

In my case I knew this was a scam from the start, but I wanted to see how things played out so I acted dumb and let the scumbag scammer send a cashier’s check. Lucky for him he sent it via United States Postal Service, so I was fortunate to be able to report him to the inspections division of the USPS. Thanks scumbag scammer.

Unfortunately people out there are trying to scam people out of money who are using one of the internet’s great tools. Craigslist may be killer for newspaper classifieds, but it is great if you are trying to clean out your basement and make a little cash on the side for more adventures. Trust me, my cash stash for new powder skis is getting quite fat.


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