How I Beat A Craigslist Scammer (And Still Might Beat Him Worse)

This story is a few days late in getting told, but I hope that the delay has let me find a better way of telling it.

To begin with, my mom has a pair of red leather chairs (with ottoman!) which she wanted to sell. Having been on a craigslist vein lately, I thought I would try it with the furniture too.

The ad went up on a Saturday (I think), and nothing came in till Monday, but when it came, it came fast. Three e-mails within a short period of the day, all very excited about the chairs. I was stoked! I responded to the first guy, and politely told the other two women they would have to wait and see if the people ahead of them changed their minds. Well, to my surprise, the first guy was so happy to hear he had gotten the chairs, he even asked me to take down the ad (I supposed to prevent competition) and offered to add $20 to the price if I did so.

Now, if you are thinking “Things that seem to good to be true…”, you may be right, but keep in mind, I was young, naive, and used to e-Bay, where people sometimes pay a little extra to secure a good deal.

So, the guy promised to mail along a check, and I promised that once it cleared, we would set up a pick-up date.

A week went by.

Somewhat upset (really, how could a local guy mail a money order and not have it here within a week) I finally gave up on the guy and sent an e-mail to the next girl in line, who had seemed more enthusiastic and all around nicer to begin with offering them to her. I sent an e-mail asking the other guy what was up too, but my mind was pretty well made up.

A couple days later.

To my astonishment, I received a piece of personal mail. Sadly, yes, a handwritten envelope will make me that happy. I was even happier, though, when I opened the letter to find nothing save three money orders, each for the surprising amount of $850. Yes, that’s a total of $2,550. I checked the money orders, but they had no to or from written on them. I checked the envelope again but found no letter. I checked the outside of the envelope, and found no return address, only that it had most definitely been addressed to me, and that it had apparently been sent from “Costal Carolina.” I was stumped as to who was sending me so much money. I called everyone I could think of, and finally my dad offered to call the money order companies for me to see what we could find out.

Obviously, the first thing everyone said was don’t cash it. At least, not yet. The odds were too good that it belonged to someone else or was part of a scam. I didn’t have to wait long. I scanned the money orders to send to my dad, and when I went to e-mail them to him, I had an e-mail from the guy who wanted to buy my chairs.

(I had wondered if the $2550 was somehow the $250 with an extra digit, so I wasn’t entirely surprised.)

He told me that his secretary had made a grave error. He asked if I could deposit the money orders and wire the rest of the money back to him. I wish we had been speaking face to face, so that I could have laughed at him. Instead, I got to send him a nasty little e-mail telling him no way.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, this scam works by using fake money orders. The victim (that’s me!) deposits them and they are accepted (like a check) by the bank, and the person wires the money back to the scammer. However, when the money order company bounces the money order a few days later, the victim is the one stuck repaying the money plus fees.

I told the guy I’d send him back his money orders if he wanted, or shred them, or burn them, or whatever else he wanted me to do with the worthless pieces of paper. But I would not wire anything to anyone and he would not be buying the chairs.

So that’s how I beat a craigslist scammer.

It gets better though. I am also contacting the money order companies to check on the validity of the money orders and to see if I can provide any information that could help them.

Oh, and I sold the chairs. To Laura. She was nice.

Now, I just hope I get to keep my fake money orders. I want to frame them.

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8 Responses to “How I Beat A Craigslist Scammer (And Still Might Beat Him Worse)”

  1. TeacherJay Says:

    It would be interesting to know just how he made the fake money orders and why in 2007 the bank can’t figure out they are fake… you’d think they would just be able to run the number through the company’s database and verify if it is legit.

  2. Zack Says:

    Well, as to the first question, I think it’s just a matter of photocopying a real money order. Since they are printed in the sotre when you buy it, they can’t have all the same security features something minted like currency can. At least, that is how I understand it.

    As for why the bank can’t tell immediately… Who knows? Technology never seems to be used the way that makes sense, does it.

  3. bill Says:

    If you want to beat them, string them along a little more. Keep an alias name and address that you send to every dirtbag that does this. They spend money on the bogus check and postage. You could string them along for weeks with claims that you misplaced or washed the original check, etc.

  4. Dee Says:

    I just got these same 3 $850 money orders and informed the person that if they wanted to do business with me it would have to be through paypal… no other option!!!

    These people are insane and if we are not thinking we will be stuck with unnecessary fees and possibly a felony record…

    Go figure…

  5. Jimmie Says:

    This SAME THING happened to me today while I was selling my laptop!!!!

  6. Carl Says:

    Got an offer to buy a car I was selling on eBay. Guy sent me a fake money order, told me to cash it and send $5,000 dollars of it to his shipping company. He also told me when to send the money. On the way to send the money I vanished until he called. My girlfriend answered and said she was my wife, I’m in jail and will be there until the court date a month from now unless she comes up with another $600 of the $1,500 bail money and tonight is the only night she can bail him out because she has to catch a flight for her mother’s funeral in another state. They Wester Unioned her the money from Nigeria. I tasted black caviar for the first time that day. It was horrible.

  7. Andrew Coin Says:

    You didn’t beat shit, chump. You just fed your energy to that genius is all, which goes on his score, not yours.

    Would have been potentially more useful to have radio tracked his physical location, and shot him point blank in the face.

    Problem is whether you deserved to be harassed by him has to be predetermined, and common clowns like yourself don’t generally know how to do that.

    Someone’s just going to nail you with something that isn’t as obvious.

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