Yesterday my brother asked me to help him find a laptop. I turned to Craigslist and found a “too good to be true” bargain. It was a Macbook Pro that retails new for about $1,300 listed for $400.
I sent an email and received back a message saying the owner was a guy in Charlotte. My first thought was, then why are you running an ad in the Raleigh Craigslist?
The more we emailed back and forth, the more worried I got, but I was holding out hope that maybe just maybe it was just a fluke and I really would get an awesome deal. The emails were written with lots of text message types of contractions and typos, but I overlooked them.
He finally told me that he had a small business and could Fedex the laptop to me on Monday morning.
Finally I sent him a credit card number. I decided to use a credit card we hardly ever use, one that has a very low credit limit. I then went to the website of the card and turn on some additional alerts. I then took the extra step of sending them an email asking them to keep an eye on the account because I felt it may be in jeopardy.
About 8 hours later (12:45am) the phone rings. We ignore it because we’re sleeping. It rings again. Now we answer it. It’s Expedia. They ask if we authorized a purchase of $510 for a hotel in Oxford. Uh, no.
I stumble downstairs and get the credit card out of my wallet. Time to call and report it stolen. I dial the 800 number for Household Bank and get a customer service person. The person is difficult to understand, she sounds like she’s trying to imitate a robot. I tell her about the fraudulent charge. She tells me that since it’s only in a pending state, there’s nothing she can do. Then she launches into the script of asking me if I would like to get some type of overdraft protection for $29. Really, that’s the next step when someone calls you at 1am reporting a fraudulent charge?
I eventually stop her long enough to tell her I’m not interested in that, I would like to cancel the card. Which she says she does. I can now go back to bed.
As you can imagine, it was hard falling back to sleep, but eventually I did. I’m glad I’m jaded enough to take proper precautions when gambling on a Craigslist crapshoot.
It makes me think that Seth Godin is right when he advocates for Craigslist to have a $1 fee to post:
Well, the number of bogus listings and repetitive listings would plummet, making the site far easier to use.
The number of scam artists using the site would go down, because it’s more difficult to be anonymous when money changes hands.
I’ve now been scammed on eBay and Criaglist, not unusual, but they have both taught me valuable lessons.
Have you been scammed online? How did it work out?
Update: The next morning…
Around dinner time last night my wife said, “maybe we could go to IKEA in Charlotte and you can get your laptop in person.” So I send a message asking if he could meet me on Sunday. I received an email this morning at 9:48am from the scammer:
husband said he can come to ikea around 5pm
I was surprised to see that, so immediately wrote back and said, sure I’ll meet you. Asked what kind of car he’ll be in and his cell phone number. Let’s see if I can now reverse scam the scammer.