BBB Warns sellers to be Cautious Using Online Classifieds Sites
October 20, 2009
Raleigh consumer receives fraudulent check from Craigslist scammer

RALEIGH, N.C. (October 1, 2009) ― Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina warns consumers to be cautious in sales transactions for personal items posted on Craigslist and other online classified sites. Scammers that live out of area are contacting people who list an item for sale and offer to pay more than the requested price for goods for unforeseen expenses with a fraudulent check.

According to the Web site, craigslist.org receives more than 20 billion page views each month and has more than 50 million users in the United States, alone. Craigslist users publish around 50 million new classified ads each month. Sadly, some people who think they have found the perfect place online to sell unwanted items are being set up by scammers.

“Online classifieds have made it much more convenient to sell individual items from your own home and on your own time, in recent years,” said Beverly Baskin, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina. “Millions of people have had successful transactions on sites like Craigslist but unfortunately, what is convenient for consumers is often just as convenient for scammers. By taking advantage of unsuspecting, trusting sellers all across the country, scam artists can make a quick buck.”

One Raleigh resident received emails from a scammer after she posted a weaving loom and accessories to Craigslist this month. She received several local offers, but one offer from a consumer who seemed urgent to buy stood out from the others. The scammer continued to pressure the consumer to hold the weaving loom, and remove the sale posting since he was a serious buyer. All correspondence was made via email. The buyer clamed to be out of town, and offered to pay extra for the item.

A fraudulent check for $3000 more than requested on the Craigslist posting was sent to the Raleigh consumer the following day. Along with the deceptive check came a request from the purchaser for her to cash the check, deduct the money for the item, deduct moving fees, save some for herself to account ‘for any hassle and run around,’ and return the rest of the money by a Money Gram.

Fortunately, the consumer did not cash the check, and consulted with BBB before she continued to correspond with the buyer. She would like all consumers to be aware of the red flags that the potential buyer sent. “I have posted items to Craigslist before, and was successful in selling them locally,” said the Raleigh consumer contacted by a Craigslist scammer. “This time, the person who contacted me was very vague and seemed suspicious. He referred to the weaving loom as “the item” in each email, never requested a picture or details of the weaving loom, would not provide me with references, and declined to say where he was from. I hope that others will learn from my experience and handle their online transactions with caution.”

BBB advises consumers to watch for the following red flags when using online classified sites:

  • The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list items or property for a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced and if the item comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
  • The buyer is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work - don’t believe it.
  • The buyer over pays for an item with a check, and asks the seller to wire the balance through wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. The check is fraudulent, but once cashed it takes a few days for the money to bounce. The consumer has sent their own money, waiting for the check to clear but when it doesn’t clear they are left paying these fees. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve and once the scammers have picked it up; there is little recourse—if any—for getting your money back.
  • The email correspondence conveys a sense of urgency. The sender will often be in a rush for you to wire the money and take down the for-sale listing, but there are no questions about picking up the item for sale. They're not interested in getting the goods — they're interested in getting the money.

For more advice you can trust from BBB on how to avoid common scams, visit www.bbb.org.

About BBB serving Eastern North Carolina:
The Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is a 501 (c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in Eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by BBB Accredited Business fees from more than 2,900 local businesses and professional firms. The BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by the BBB include, reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, dispute resolution services, and consumer/business education programs. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration. Visit www.bbb.org.