There was a time when Bay Area residents could find anything they needed quickly and efficiently on Craigslist. It was great - cars, furniture, apartments, partners, all right there in a revolutionarily simple text format. Then Craigslist expanded to the rest of the US and even the world. Now the scam artists have descended.
This week we went to Craigslist to find a car. Wow! A 2003 Dodge Caravan with 45,000 miles for only $2,900.00 Similar vehicles where listed for $8,000. What a deal! A quick email to the seller and he responds from his email firstname.lastname@example.org Turns out he is in the army and traveling, can't take phone calls but that is OK he will have a third party escrow BuyerProtector.us ship the car to our home and invoice us. We have five days to return the car guaranteed. In the mean time, he sends an invoice for the $2,900.00
See the scam? Of course you do. He gets the money, we get nothing. No car ever shows up. The level of effort put out by these guys is impressive but it is not much more difficult than setting up a phishing scam. First he needed a domain to match his military story (usarmydt.com redirects to army.mil ). DNS for the domain is provided by Senpai-IT.com out of Ireland. The real effort went into creating the fake BuyerProtector.us site based on the legit BuyerGaurdian.com site.
I was scammed once years ago. It still rankles and I still own the FULL SIZE WATER CRAFT WITH MOTOR that I got for FREE ($139.95 shipping costs!). These scam artists are going to ruin the Craigslist experience unless they do something about it quickly. As of this morning the self policing Craigslist community has flagged the postings from Mark@usarmydt.com. But it took three days and we are probably not the only ones who emailed him.
Here are my tips for avoiding being scammed:
1. If they contact you be suspect. Ask why me? Am I just lucky?
2. If they cannot talk on the phone be suspect. Are they afraid you won't deal with a Nigerian or Russian accent?
3. Don't send money.
4. Don't send money.
5. Research it online. If anyone else saw the same scam you may be able to save yourself a lot of time.
If you are scammed report it to the FTC. That won't do much good if the scammer is overseas but still worth reporting.
Come to think about it I fell for another scam once. That one set my career back two or three years. I'll have to write that one up some day.