out eBay and Craigslist scam artists
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
May 12-18, 2009; issue 1020
High Tech Office column
When you replace a computer, you have a dilemma of what to do with the
individuals and businesses have had success finding new homes for
unneeded items using eBay or Craigslist, but of late, it seems to have
gotten harder to sell notebooks and other systems online.
alert about eBay was raised approximately a year ago through an article
in The Consumerist by Chris Walters. He recounted a tale of Timothy,
trying to use the online auction site to sell his laptop to buy a newer
model. The winner of the auction wanted it shipped to Nigeria. Timothy
then received an e-mail claiming to be from PayPal stating that he had
received a payment, but that it would not appear in his account until
he sent verification of shipment along with a tracking number.
was suspicious and reposted the laptop, with the same results. Ebay
support was no help. Timothy simply received an automated response
telling how to reset his eBay password. Walters’ conclusion: “It’s now
completely impossible to sell a laptop on eBay.”
posted an ad to sell a laptop on Vancouver Craigslist. Selling that way
means seeing the buyer face to face, being paid in cash, with no
shipping charges and no fees. I asked a couple of hundred dollars for
my older laptop.
Fairly quickly, I got a response from someone
named Garry. He said he could not come by to see it, because he “was
not in the state for now,” but offered me US$100 above my asking price
plus $200 to ship it to him right away.
Then George wrote. He said
he was “a football coach from Edmonton residing in London,” but wanted
the laptop to be shipped to his son, “residing in Africa with his
mother.” He too offered far more than I was asking, to cover shipping,
promising PayPal payment.
Like Timothy, I was suspicious,
cancelled my posting and tried again later. This time, Lisa said she
lived in Ohio and would pay extra to have the laptop shipped to her
friend in Nigeria. Mary said she wanted it for her “daughter in oversea
as a Birthday Gift.”
Get the picture? Tempting promises of
payment above the asking price by people who live in places too far to
enable them to see the laptop and want it shipped to yet another remote
location, offering more than the laptop is worth.
followed up to see where these offers would go. At best, I suspect I
would ship it off and never receive payment. At worst, I would be asked
to send account information that might be used to try to empty the
balance of my PayPal account.
Potential buyers are also scam
targets. On Vancouver Craigslist’s musical instruments pages, you may
see an ad for an expensive instrument with an asking price that, while
high (several thousand dollars, perhaps), is enticingly less than the
If you try to followup on the ad, e-mail the
sender and ask to see the instrument, too often the response will be
that the seller is in one far away location and the instrument is in
storage in another.
You’ll be asked to deposit payment in what
the seller promises is a “safe escrow account” and the instrument will
be shipped to you.
Don’t do it. The escrow accounts are just one more way to separate you
from your money.
Remember that whether you’re buying or selling, if an offer seems too
good to be true, it probably is.
Craigslist posts an advisory on the e-mails it auto-forwards between
potential buyers and sellers.
reads: “Avoid scams by dealing locally. Avoid wiring money,
cross-border deals, work-at-home. Beware: cashiers cheques, money
orders, escrow, shipping.” •