Auto parts seller ripped off by Craigslist check scammer — and the key to staying safe

Maine resident Michael Hawes was looking to sell some rims on Craigslist recently when he fell for one of the oldest Craigslist scams out there — the check scam. Here’s how it went down, according to WABI 5 News:

“The buyer, who used the name James Sawyer, sent Hawes a check for $2,900.43. Way over the original asking price. “The rims I posted for $600 and I said it’s awful funny he sent such a big check, but he told me it was to insure the rims and for shipping,” said the Seller.

Hawes deposited the check and wired the rest of the money back to Sawyer, but under a different name. Then a few days later, the buyer sent Hawes another email, saying something went wrong with the first check, so he sent another – this time for $2,000.”

Unfortunately, Hawes didn’t realize he had been conned until the checks bounced, leaving him with a $5000 hole in his bank account.

In this case there were plenty of red flags to see. Apparently, the checks were all sent from different addresses, and the money for shipping had to be sent to different people.

However, if Hawes had read one of my first posts on the Craigslist Scam Report, he could have avoided this situation entirely. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, you should NEVER ship anything to a buyer or accept a check as payment when selling on Craigslist. Almost every time, the buyer is a scammer, looking for easy prey online. Avoid the predators with tips like these, and find success selling online with the comprehensive techniques in Craigslist Unlocked.

–Elliott

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Frazier Park woman falls for Criagslist ticket scam, buys used Disneyland passes online

One woman’s quest to visit “The Happiest Place on Earth” was derailed when she tried to purchase tickets to Disneyland on Craigslist.

Here’s an except from the news report at BakersfieldNow.com:

“[Robin] Willoughby went onto Craigslist and thought she found a deal out of the hundreds of posts listing Disneyland tickets for sale.

“Everything sounded totally legit, so he went and paid $150 cash for these tickets,” said Willoughby.

She thought everything was fine until she tried to get into the park and was stopped at the gate.

“That’s when the questions started, Disney personnel, and then more higher-up Disney personnel, and then Disney police, and then Anaheim P.D.,” recalled Willoughby.

She said she was questioned for an hour and 20 minutes and she was told that people had tried to use that same ticket over 100 times.”

Apparently, the ticket to Disneyland was legitimate. Willoughby just became the latest victim in a “pay it forward” scam, where the original purchser uses the ticket and then sells it to an unsuspecting victim. When the second buyer finds out that the ticket has already been used, he or she tries to resell it to make up for the loss. This cycle of scamming can continue endlessly until someone puts an end to it.

How can you avoid getting caught in theme park ticket scams? Only buy theme park tickets from authorized dealers. Never purchase them on Craigslist.

However, it is ok to purchase sports and concert tickets on Craigslist. Since these types of tickets are only good for one specific date and time, it’s extremely difficult for someone to use them and them pass them off as if they have not been used. Just make sure to follow the tips in my previous post about Craigslist ticket scams.

For more helpful advice to have success when buying or selling anything on Craigslist, check out my new book, Craigslist Unlocked, now available for download at Amazon.com.

–Elliott

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Watch out for stolen electronics on Craigslist

A recent incident involving a stolen laptop on Craigslist serves as a learning lesson for anyone buying used goods online. According to an Oregon Live report, the laptop was stolen twice and sold twice on Craigslist:

“In January 2012, Alexander Stanisel reported his MacBook stolen. Meanwhile, Chloe Simmons saw a deal on Craigslist for the laptop and bought it. Then it was stolen from her. Later, Abram Underwood saw a deal on the MacBook on Craigslist – only $400. So he bought it. Neither Simmons nor Underwood knew they had been sold stolen property, according to police.

Simmons had installed a program on the computer that let her send a message to it, so she did. This allowed her and police to track the computer to Underwood. Then, when investigators checked the laptop’s serial number in a national database, they found it was actually Stanisel’s.”

Because Stanisel made sure to report his laptop stolen and Simmons utilized the tracking software she had installed, the computer was eventually recovered.

Since neither Simmons nor Underwood knew that the laptop was stolen, neither of them was charged with a crime. However, the recovery is no consolation to them, as they are both out hundreds of dollars with no laptop to show for it.

How can you avoid being caught in the same sticky situation? Here are a few tips:

1) As with most Craigslist ads, an unusually low asking price for an item should raise suspicion. If the item is indeed real, then consider the possibility that the seller stole it and is trying to make a quick turnaround. Instead of being conned by an offer that is too good to be true, use the strategies in guides like Craigslist Unlocked to find genuine deals.

2) When you meet with a seller to examine the product for sale, ask the seller questions about his or her history with the item. If the seller gives no background information, or is hesitant to provide details about where or when the item was purchased, it may be stolen merchandise. Most petty thieves don’t bother to plan a convincing cover story.

3) If you are buying a laptop, you can all the manufacturer’s customer service number to find out if the laptop has been reported stolen. Use the serial number for reference, which is usually located on the bottom of the laptop.

4) If you are buying a cellphone, make sure to call the cellphones’ service provider to check if the cellphone was reported stolen. You can use the cellphone’s Electronic Serial Number (ESN), usually located inside the battery compartment, to look it up in the service provider’s database. This is especially important, because lost or stolen cellphones are almost always reported, and once a report is made, the cellphone cannot be reactivated under another customer’s name until the issue is resolved.

So, whether you are the owner of valuable electronics or a prospective Craigslist buyer, there are simple steps you can take to protect your possessions… and avoid getting ripped off.

–Elliott

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Look out for flood-damaged cars on Craigslist from Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern seaboard last fall, leaving a trail of damage and destruction in its wake. Some of the most surreal news photos of the aftermath were those of dozens of cars submerged in parking lots and city streets in New York City and surrounding areas. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, over 230,000 cars were damaged by the hurricane… and some of them are undoubtedly making their way to Craigslist.

Even if a flood-damaged car has been dried out for months, it likely has hidden rust, mold and electrical problems that could create nightmares for you. Here are some tips to help you avoid buying one of these watered-down lemons:

–Just like with other Craigslist scams, watch out for cars that are priced well below their Blue Book value, but don’t have any visible damage. Flood damage is often hard to see at first glance.

–After deciding which used car to buy, have a mechanic inspect it before sealing the deal. Many new car dealerships and independent mechanics offer inspections for a nominal fee.

The following news report from 2010 also gives some advice on how to spot a flood-damaged car:

Any time a flood or hurricane occurs in your area, be on heightened alert for flood-damaged cars when you go car shopping. The last thing you want to do is to sink money into a scam.

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49ers fans lose $5900 in Craigslist Super Bowl ticket scam — How you can avoid being the next victim

Your favorite football team just made it to the Super Bowl, and you’re do ecstatic that you go online to buy tickets to the game right away. Unfortunately, if you don’t act wisely, you might find yourself the victim of a Craigslist scam. According the the San Jose Mercury News, that’s exactly what happened to San Francisco 49ers fan Sharon Osgood and her husband:

“…after emailing, texting and talking with the seller on the phone for a week, they wired the money to his credit union. On Monday, the highly anticipated package arrived — by FedEx.

Instead of Super Bowl tickets, inside was a picture of quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco with a message underneath that read: “Enjoy the game!!!! Go Ravens!!!” “

This type of scam is easy to avoid if you remember one of the basic rules to staying safe on Craigslist: NEVER send money to a seller via wire transfer. There is no way to cancel a wire transfer once it’s made, so never use it to pay someone you don’t know.

That being said, one of the best places to find tickets for major sports events after they sell out is Stubhub.com. Unlike Craigslist, Stubhub has buyer protection guarantees, so your money is safe, even if the transaction goes bad.

If you do decide to use Craigslist to buy tickets, make sure that you meet with the seller in person – and in a public place – to complete the sale. I’ve sold concert tickets that way many times without any problems. In fact, it has been my success selling legitimate tickets and other goods online that led me to write Craigslist Unlocked, which is now available on Amazon.com.

Oh, and one more thing — if you buy tickets through Craigslist, make sure they are hard tickets — the kind that you purchase from the Ticketmaster box office, not tickets printed off of the Internet. If you accept an Internet-printed ticket via Craigslist, it may not be real — and even if it is, the seller could have easily made another copy and used it himself, which would invalidate yours if he showed up to the event first.

–Elliott

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Craigslist job scam victim turns lemons into lemonade

The quick thinking of a Las Vegas woman helped turn her encounter with a Craigslist job scammer into a rewarding experience.

After being hired for a product sales job she saw on Craigslist, Brittany Barnes started noticing some signs that the position might not be legitimate. KLAS-TV reports:

“Brittnay started seeing red flags, however, after her first day of training. The employer wanted her to pay $95 for a starter kit. All she received was a binder and strips of paper to burn. She never received any products.

Her first assignment was to generate $2,000 in revenue. So, she started pitching the product to family and friends.

“It wasn’t until my friend was ready to make a purchase from me that something, everything in me said don’t. Don’t turn her money over,” Brittnay said.”

After calling Cold Fire, the company who makes the product, she discovered that her new boss doesn’t work for them; he was apparently fired months ago.

However, her disappointment that the job offer was a fraud turned into good news. From the article:

“Thankful for the notification, Cold Fire’s CEO offered Brittnay a job with him on the spot. She’s now the district sales manager of Cold Fire for Nevada and is spearheading their social media department.”

Is there a lesson in this? Of course! If you’re looking for a job on Craigslist, be careful. You can bet a job offer is a scam if the employer asks you for any cash up front. Even if you’re told the money is to pay for “startup costs”, quit immediately before you get caught in a pyramid scheme.

Plus, make sure to do research on the company and its representatives before you accept the position. Check with the Better Business Bureau for details on the company’s reputation, and find an alternate method of contacting the company to verify the ad is legitimate. Doing your homework will help you steer clear of Craigslist job scams… and you may even find a real career opportunity in the process.

–Elliott

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Craigslist auto sale scams permeate US, Canada — How do you spot them?

Looking for a used car at a great price? Craigslist is a good place to start — but it’s also a hunting ground for scammers who offer cars for sale that they don’t even have. The following video clip from KXAN News shows one auto sale scam that overwhelmed an Austin, Texas Mazda dealership and fooled hundreds of car shoppers:

Canada News wire published an alert about a similar car scam earlier this month:

“According to Carey Smith, OMVIC Director of Investigations, Husen Original Autos advertises on online vehicle marketplaces such as AutoTrader.ca, Wheels.ca, E-bay.ca, Craigslist.ca and Kijiji.ca, offering high-end late model vehicles at prices that are often “too good to be true”. Smith explains this phony dealer’s website claims to be based in Phoenix AZ, however the business does not actually exist.”

If the seller of a car on Craigslist wants you to pay for the car with a wire transfer or wants to ship the car to you, you can bet it’s a scam. Avoid those ads like the plague, and make sure the car deal of your dreams doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

–Elliott

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