7 Warning Signs That You Are Being Scammed on Craigslist

By Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.Legal

Scam Alert button on white computer keyboardBergen County divorce attorney Paul Goldhamer, B.A, J.D. Esq. co-founded the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman in 1975. Mr. Goldhamer was a pioneer in offering free legal seminars to the public in NJ and NY. In addition to practicing family and matrimonial law, he maintains a busy schedule of teaching, lecturing to professional organizations, and appearing on TV and radio. Mr. Goldhamer was chosen as a “Super Lawyer” in 2014 by Superlawyers.com.

by Paul Goldhamer, B.A, J.D. Esq.

Watch out for scams:

A couple of weeks ago I sold a few items on Craigslist. One item was an old electric guitar for $200.

Whenever you sell something on Craigslist, you should generally only do it for local delivery, unless it’s a very small item. Never part with the item until you’ve received payment — and that means the cash. You really shouldn’t accept checks, but if you do, you must wait 30 days for them to clear. I know…banks say they clear items in three days, but banks will reach back into your account and take the money back out on a check which is no good. That is written into your deposit agreement. Even though banks are supposed to figure out if the check is bad with the 10 days, banks really can’t do it in this modern economy.

How to Spot Craigslist Scammers

Warning Sign #1. Immediately, I received a text (instead of a call) to the number listed saying they wanted the item and to hold it for them and pull it from the listing immediately. (I instantly knew this was a scam. A real buyer would have called. It is a lot easier to pull a scam in writing because you cannot get caught off guard by an offhand question, and if you have an accent you cannot hear it in a text).

Warning Sign #2. Immediately and unsolicited, he told me that he had a broken leg and was in the hospital, and his wife was nine months pregnant, but she would pick up the item. (Getting you in a sympathetic mood).

Warning Sign #3. They texted that they wanted to pay by check. I told them ok, but the check would have to clear before I sent anything. They said they would add $80. For my trouble. (This guitar can be bought new for $290. Another red flag and again appealing to one’s innate greed).

Warning Sign #4. In the texts, they invoked G-d’s name several times, with a lot of “G-d bless you”s and other religious stuff to give the impression that they were a G-d-fearing person.

Warning Sign #5. Another text came saying that the wife was now also in the hospital (remember … she was 9 months pregnant!), and he was still in the hospital and they would send a carrier to pick up the item. (The item was not identified, because they are sending out hundreds of these texts). Again, a lot of “G-d bless you”s and words invoking higher powers.

Warning Sign #6. Unsolicited, without a letter or note, an $1805.09 check arrived from a third-party payor, special delivery from a Florida UPS office. The check was on an out of state California bank drawn on some legitimate sounding motor sales company. When you looked the company up on the Internet, it appeared to exist, but when you called the telephone numbers, there was no working phone. At that time, I did not really connect the $1805.09 check to the purchase of the $200 guitar. Remember, at many businesses we receive scores if not hundreds of checks per month and no one person knows all the vendors or clients. (The large and odd amount of the check is designed to disarm you and appeal to one’s innate greed.)

Warning Sign #7. A text arrives from a different telephone # asking if I received a check. It was a different text number than the number that made the inquiry about the guitar. It asks you to confirm you received a check. There are no identification names, numbers, or items.

Then I received an inquiry from the original number asking me to forward the goods to them. I told him I had not received payment for the goods. They immediately became incensed because they knew I had acknowledged receipt of the check to the other number. (They use a 2 prong attack to cause your guard to slip).

I denied receipt of the check for the goods and they immediately became hostile and threatened criminal action, etc. I invited them up and to bring cash. They threatened FBI action. I told him the FBI office was right down the corner and we could all go there together. They then went into a myriad of unhappy, swearing and foul language…all from the God-fearing group.

The next step they are hoping for is that you will send the item when the carrier appears, but they also tell you that because of all the hospital bills they need the change from the purchase overpayment immediately. The sucker sends the change and a month later their bank tells them the $1805.09 check is no good!

6 Rules for Avoiding Craigslist Scams

  1. Never pay money on a possible bad check;
  2. Never sell anything and take a check until it clears 30 days;
  3. Whenever you do not see a live person, be suspicious;
  4. When the sappy story starts, stop listening;
  5. Never be enticed by your own greed;
  6. If it seems too good to be true, it isn’t.
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