How to Spot a Scam and Fraud on Craigslist

Craigslist and other classified sites are becoming filled with more and more fraud everyday.  Here is how you can spot a scam or fraud on Craigslist or any other classified site.

Not too long ago we had a client email us from Australia looking to purchase a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda in the St Louis area at Scott Air Force Base. This poor chap from Australia asked if we could inspect a vehicle inside Scott Air Force Base but said the vehicle was in some sort of logistics storage on base. Being prior military myself I know the base pretty well and know that there is no way the military would allow a civilian vehicle to be stored in a logistics warehouse by a military member so right then and there I knew something was up.

The gentleman from Australia also said that he had attempted to get this Lieutenant Colonel’s phone number so he could have a conversation a bit easier with her but the Colonel continued to avoid sending a phone number I told him I would attempt to contact the seller directly to set up an inspection of the vehicle

This all got me thinking and being the investigator kind of guy I am I decided to try it out myself and play the interested party and email the seller through Craigslist. What I got in return was SHOCKING!

Here is my first email to the seller requesting additional information about the car. As you can see I play that I am curious about the vehicle and that I would like to SPEAK with them over the phone about it.

Interestingly enough the seller tells me a small bit about the car and request my direct email so they can send photos of the vehicle.  I entertain them and reply with my email.

This is where my first RED FLAG went flying…  Firstly, I am a U. S. Army Veteran and I know there is NO way that the USAF would allow a service member to store their personal vehicle in a military “logistics department”.  My second red flag was how they immediately tell me how the transaction will be handled.  I haven’t even given them an offer yet or even said I like the car.  Thirdly, I still haven’t received a phone number to speak with them over the phone which was requested in my very first email.

So I couldn’t resist feeling that this deal seemed a bit fishy and I wanted to test the waters.  Here is my reply email back to the seller.  The seller’s response is directly following mine.

At this point I knew 100% that this was a fraud email.  Why would any sane person reply back the way this seller did?

So of course I continue to play along and apologize for my “tone” and I explain myself nicely and still say I am interested in the vehicle but I also say I would like to communicate by phone.

This was the icing on the cake, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the end of the line…

It is overly important to ensure you are able to get a phone number and good contact information from a seller right up front.  I understand that there is a lot of weird people out there also acting as buyers just trying to steal a car or find out a location from a seller.  But true buyers want and NEED to speak with someone by phone about the vehicle.  Sadly, if I hadn’t been prior military I might not have known that service members cannot store their own privately owned vehicle in the logistics department and might of even agreed to meet near the base somewhere to look at the car… My sanity tells me I would NEVER wire money to eBay or anywhere else until you have SEEN the vehicle and SPOKEN to a live person about the vehicle.

There are several services out in the market that can help you facilitate a vehicle sales transaction such as iAuto Agent in St Louis, Mo, or even  eBay does NOT get involved in transactions directly nor do they hold deposits. They leave that up to their partnered companies.

Another avenue, which I believe helped save this chap from Australia from getting caught up in this fraud, was that he decided he wanted a 3rd party independent inspections of the vehicle before purchasing it.  Smart fella.  Saved himself losing $2500 and possibly even more.