Like many people looking to make a few more dollars each month, I began listing some items to sell on Craig’s List, which is pretty much an online yard sale. I don’t know who Craig is, but I bet he didn’t expect his site to be the host of a buyer scam.
We were trying to get rid of a yellow couch which needed some minor fabric repair. I had posted it on Craig’s List a month earlier, but had no offers. When I posted the couch the next time around, I forgot to add the photos to the listing. I had planned to go back and add them, but before I had the chance, I received the first email from a potential buyer who called himself C. Luis.
“Available for sale? would love to buy it right away”
My first thought was, “Sweet! I am getting rid of this couch.” My second thought was, “That’s weird that someone wants to buy a couch without ever seeing it.” This was red flag number one, though I just assumed that this buyer was in the business of re-upholstering furniture and reselling it for profit and therefor, the appearance of the couch didn’t matter.
The next email I got initiated the payment offer, and also threw up another red flag.
“Hi. Thanks for the response.I am willing to pay your asking price.I will pay by money order as its the only way i can pay you at the moment.I will make arrangement for the pick-up after payment have been received by you. I dont mind adding an extra thirty dollars so you can keep it in my favor.Reply with your full name, cell phone number,and address where payment should be sent. Please take the posting off craigslist today and consider it sold to me. Expecting to hear from you soon.
Regards — C. Luis“
Being a new user to Craig’s List, I decided that I would cash the money order when received, and then arrange for the couch to be picked up. However, I couldn’t understand why the buyer would offer to pay $30 more just to hold the couch. I declined the extra payment offer and told the buyer to mail the money order for the original amount.
The next email that I received didn’t appear to have any red flags at first, but on second look, it appears to be an email that tries to give the buyer credibility. It makes them seem like a real person, with a real business, and real problems.
Hi. How are you doing . I am in London now on business trip but have ask my assistant to send your payment out immediately.Please i want you to hold it for me .It will take few days to get the payment. Thanks. C. Luis
I told the buyer I would wait for them to return, and hold the couch for a few days. After that, the scam was exposed when this final email was sent.
Hi. How are you doing,hope fine.Your payment have been sent but there is a mix-up in the payment my assistant sent to you, after reconciling my account, I discovered that She sent an over payment to you. The payment meant for another item was sent to you in error. I have been trying to retrieve it but to no avail. I am very worried. Please as soon as you receive the money orders, get it cashed at your bank, deduct your payment and send the balance via western union to the details i will provide you with. Please let me know if i can count on you to do this for me. Thanks. C. Luis
When I received this, I first told the buyer that I would not cash his money order when I received it, due to the overpayment. I offered for them to pay cash if they still wanted the couch. I have not heard from the scam artist since.
What I learned was that these scams use fake money orders that your bank will cash and then hold you responsible for. The scam artist wants you to cash the money order (that includes an overage of $200-$500 of what you were supposed to receive) and then mail the scam artist the overage payment before the bank catches on.
Beware of anything that looks fishy and never ignore red flags. Oh, by the way, if you need a yellow couch, I have one for sale.