Use Caution When Using Craig’s List

When it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

That’s what a West Toledo woman thought when she advertised her old scooter chair on Craig’s List, only to find an immediate buyer from California. They said they were buying the chair for their grandma in Ohio (“They threw the word ‘grandma’ around a lot.”). They not only offered to match her asking price of $800, but sent her a check for $1500. They explained to the seller that “we were to keep $800, and the other $700 was to be given to the people who picked the chair up to deliver to grandma.”

But the would-be seller took both the big check and her suspicions to the local Better Business Bureau. The BBB explained the scam: “The check they sent wasn’t drawn on a real bank, or any bank, it was just printed up,” If the woman had taken it, and handed both the scooter and $700 to the people delivering the chair to the fictional grandma, the frauds would have both the chair and cash, and the seller would have a worthless ‘check.’ Instead of following through with the transaction, the would-be victim filed a complaint with the police.

Signs of a Scam

According to Dick Eppstein, President of the Northwest Ohio/Southeast Michigan Better Business Bureau, this had many of the earmarks of a scam. For instance, the buyers weren’t local, and they had a touching, convincing story of “grandma” all prepared. “Con artists don’t look like con artists,” he notes, “and they always have a great story.” But he emphasized that buying or selling on Craig’s List doesn’t have to be a bad experience.

Use the following rules to protect yourself:

Do they offer much more than the agreed-upon price, and ask you to deposit the check and send the excess money to someone else? No matter how convincing the explanation, their check is probably worthless. If you go along with the scheme, you will have sent some of your own money for them to keep.

Are they local? While Eppstein admits that it’s hard to know who is truly local on the internet, it’s easier to commit fraud from a long distance locale. For instance, fake dog breeders will often show pictures of nonexistent dogs, charge a fee for the animal, then demand a “shipping fee,” then “vaccination fees” or many more fees before disappearing entirely without delivering a pet.

Do they agree to meet in a safe, public place to exchange payment and goods? The best possible place is the parking lot of a local police station. Avoid doing the exchange in an isolated place or at your home.

Finally, is it too good to be true? Listen to your common sense. If it seems too good, it probably is. If you aren’t sure, call the BBB at 419-531-3116 and discuss your doubts. If there are real red flags, they will be happy to point them out.

Dick Eppstein, President of the
Northwest Ohio/Southeast Michigan
Better Business Bureau

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