Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Anatomy of a Craigslist Scam (UPDATED)

The trailer exists, of course, it just doesn't belong to the person claiming to own it....

Anatomy of a Craigslist Scam

A friend of mine writes to ask me if a Casita trailer for sale on Craigslist looks like a "good deal".   It is a good deal, all right, too good to be true.   It is a scam of course, and has all the hallmarks of one.   How could I spot it so easily?  Well, it ain't hard.


1.  The Ad:   The ad may be worded oddly as the person placing it does not speak English as a native language.   Not always an indicia, but sometimes this is present.  Or, if the English is good, it is British English, not American English.

2.  The Title:  In the title there may be a lot of odd word fragments, punctuation marks (e.g., !~~~~!) which are used to defeat Craigslist's bots, which are designed to detect multiple ads with the same content in a plurality of locations.  As we shall see, the bots did can this ad, but not before my friend had a chance to contact the scammer.

3.  The Price:  The price is always too-good-to-be true, about 1/3 to 1/4 of the actual value of the item in question.  It always ranges from $1500 to $3000 as that is an affordable amount for people in the lower income brackets who are easier to scam (no one asks $10,000 for a $40,000 car, as the plebes don't have $10,000 to begin with).   Also, they sometimes use odd price numbers to avoid C/L bots.  So instead of $2200 you get $2209 or $2234.

4. The Contact:   While described as being in your area, the phone number is an area code from across the country.   Again, not always determinative, as some folks like myself have cell phones or NetTalk with out-of-state area codes.   If an e-mail is embedded in an image, forgetaboutit.  Also watch for weird e-mail addresses which are nonsense combinations of letters and numbers.  No one would choose such an e-mail address for themselves!

5.  The Story:  If you do contact them, they will start feeding you "the story" to get you to start believing in this nonsense.  There is some reason they have to sell it (death in the family, etc.) and they need a down payment from you by wire transfer or Western Union to "hold" the item.   They will put a code number on the Western Union so they can't cash it until you release the funds (Western Union has no such code numbers - putting  code in the "Memo" section does not lock the funds at all).

6.  Western Union or Debit Card:   In the end, the story winds up with some reason why you should sent them money first, and if the "Mark" has been hooked, well, he won't let such a good deal get away!  So they send off the money on Western Union  - and no camper.

7.  The Items For Sale:  They are always things people desire, but don't want to pay for.   A Kubota tractor, a jet ski, a motorcycle (Honda CB500), a Camaro, a boat, a Camper, and so forth.  Used items that would ordinarily sell for $10,000 to $15,000 being advertised for $2000 or so.

8. Multiple Ads:  If the same ad appears in more than a dozen Craigslist sites across America, chances are, it is a scam. 

And it is a lucrative scam, too.   Once the photos are up and the ad text written, it takes only a few hours to upload to all the Craigslists in the country (and a bot can do this in minutes or seconds even).   Even if the ads are flagged by users or cancelled by bots, even if only one or two people see them, that is all they need.   If you put up 100 ads, and get a few contacts from each, and of those, a few send you money, you've netted tens of thousands of dollars, all for a few hours on a computer.   I'm in the wrong business!

Who does this?  Nigerian scammers, Ontario Canada Scammers, Russian Mafia Scammers.  Some Muslim "refugees" in Ontario apparently run some of these scams, sending your hard-earned dough to Al Qaeda or ISIS. The Nigerians just buy themselves a Rolex and Mercedes.  It is a lucrative business!
* * *

Let's apply these criterion to this particular fact situation and see how it applies.

I found the ad on Craigslist in Elmira:

2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe 17' - $2500 (elmira)

fuel: gas
transmission: automatic
Extremely Clean Barn Kept 2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer with enclosed wetbath. I bought it new in 2007 and was delivered in January 2008. Used it for a few times and kept it indoors all the time. The exterior looks brand new and the graphics look new as well. New battery installed in March 2015.The trailer has an empty weight of about 2,000lbs and has a tongue weight of 350lbs.Exterior Width is about 75in and the total height with AC Unit is just shy of 9ft. The trailer itself is 17ft long with about 3ft of tongue.

Installed options :

Tan/earth tone cushions,rooftop air conditioner w/ heat,propane furnace,range cover and sink cover,tv shelf,cable ready,accessory package,sway bar,fantastic roof vent,outside shower,water heater upgrade,high lift axle,25 gallon freshwater tank,fan for refrigerator,rear bed is 75.5in x 54in,side bed is 73in x 25in.

The trailer comes with clean and clear title. Due to some personal reasons it must be sold as soon as possible.




PHONE: 360-342-4957
  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers

* * *

First off, where the hell is area code 360?

Washington
Area code 360 is the telephone area code for western Washington state outside metropolitan Seattle. It began service on January 15, 1995. The area, which encompasses all of western Washington outside urban King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties and Bainbridge Island, was previously part of area code 206.


Wow, this guy gets around.   Probably a NetTalk phone line or a compromised or stolen cell phone.

I called the number.  rings.....rings.....rings....
rings....rings....rings.... no voice mail?   "the number is not transferring"  Weird.

* * *
He sends an e-mail after our friend contacts them:

From: John Pearson
Date: November 2, 2015 at 9:02:45 PM EST
To:
Subject: Re: 2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe 17'
Reply-To: John Pearson
Hi,

I still have the 2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe 17'. The camper is in excellent condition, clean and clear title, no mechanical problems, no rust, no leaks without hidden issues. I've reduced the price to $2,500 and this is the final price. The camper is located in Schenectady, NY.

I have all pictures here: http://s1175.photobucket.com/user/pearsonj1/slideshow/

I'm not at home right now , I have two cottages near Niagara Falls, NY and the cottages management keeps me here. To sell the camper I'll need to travel back home, so please let me know if you are seriously interested in buying it.

Is an extremely clean, indoor kept 2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe 17' with enclosed wet bath. I bought it new in 2007 and was delivered in January 2008. Used it for a few times and kept it indoors all the time. The exterior looks brand new and the graphics look new as well. New battery installed in March 2015.The trailer has an empty weight of about 2,000lbs and has a tongue weight of 350lbs.Exterior Width is about 75in and the total height with AC Unit is just shy of 9ft. The trailer itself is 17ft long with about 3ft of tongue.

Installed options : Tan/earth tone cushions,rooftop air conditioner w/ heat,propane furnace,range cover and sink cover,tv shelf,cable ready,accessory package,sway bar,fantastic roof vent,outside shower,water heater upgrade,high lift axle,25 gallon freshwater tank,fan for refrigerator,rear bed is 75.5in x 54in,side bed is 73in x 25in.

Thanks,
John Pearson

* * * 

 "Cottages management" seems like an odd English (British) phrase.  In Upstate New York (where I was born and raised) we don't call them "Cottages" but "Camps".

Also, we see the seeds of the "story" here - that he has to drive across the State to get to the camper, and no doubt that will be the excuse he will use to ask for "good faith money" by Western Union.

In terms of contact information, in addition to the weird phone number, he has a "usa.com" address.  What the heck is that?
 
I searched online and there is a USA.COM company in New Jersey.  However, they don't offer e-mail services.   A company called mail.com does, using that domain name.  They did have this warning on their site:


USA.com Email Service Alert

@USA.com email services are not owned or provided by our company and are not affiliated with the local guide services we provide at the website www.USA.com.
Mail.com, a 1&1 United Internet company, owns and provides a free web based email service for consumers using @USA.com. To learn more about their service or sign-up for a free email service using your-name@USA.com visit Mail.com.
The email service provided by Mail.com using @USA.com is a free email service. We have received positive feedback from many users that really enjoy this personalized email offering. Please note that while most people will benefit from the service, there are some people that are prone to abuse. Mail.com has strict anti-spam and fraud policies and we work closely with law enforcement to pursue parties that abuse the service. If you have a complaint to submit against someone for abuse of an email address @USA.com, you can submit your complaint via their online form and it will be reviewed promptly.

Scam Warning!

Recently we have seen a fraudulent scam using an email address @USA.com where a party acts as the US Immigration Service and requests funds via Western Union. We have requested that Mail.com terminate several such email addresses at USA.com and we have reported the scam to the authorities. If you see such a scam please notify us and or Mail.com and also we suggest that you reach out to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center to further report this fraudulent activity.

Not enough to say it is a scam based on the e-mail address alone, but it is a good indication that it is a tossaway address being used.

I searched further and it appears that the "usa.com" e-mail addresses are used by a lot of scammers:

Email Service Alert : USA.com

www.usa.com/scam-warning.php
Recently we have seen a fraudulent scam using an email address @USA.com where a party acts as the US Immigration Service and requests funds via Western ...
CNET
Today I receipt Email from u.s.states.gov@usa.com that tell me thats i won United States Permanent Resident Card .. The weird thing that they have my full name ...
"419" Scam – sender domain usa.com: ... Support our efforts to stop scams! ... such accounts are often abused by criminals who send variants of the "419" scam.
Jul 5, 2014 - You can view a warning about those emails here - http://www.usa.com/scam-warning.php It is also being used for a immigration scam.
These services are commonly used by fraudsters to set up scams... ... arcticmail.com, arizona.usa.com, arkansas.usa.com, aroma.com, artlover.com, asia.com, ...
Feb 5, 2010 - 15 posts - ‎7 authors
This is a definite scam. The US Army would not write to you from a free email account (which is what the usa.com address is). The army and the ...
Indeed.com
Mar 30, 2013 - 7 posts - ‎4 authors
Corporate Headquarters Cargill Company USA ... I searched for SPX scam mail and didnt get anything and proceeded, now again searched for ...

Scams and Frauds | USA.gov

https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds
USA.gov
Learn how to protect yourself from and respond to scams and frauds.

Identify and Report Scams and Frauds | USA.gov

www.usa.gov › ... › Identity Theft › Online Safety › Privacy
USA.gov
Charity scams - Scammers take advantage on your willingness to help people in need and charitable causes. They may collect your donation and keep it for ...
NJ.com
Mar 10, 2014 - Bamboozled: NJ man hounded by alleged 'Yellow Pages' scam from Dubai, ... It was an invoice from Yellow-Page-Online-USA.com for $1,188, 

* * *

The photos on photobucket were recently uploaded and Mr. Pearson has no other photos.  Quite odd.

Also note, for a trailer that never left Schenectady, New York, it certainly looks like it was photographed in Arizona or Texas.

The Price is at least 1/4 of retail.  From NADA guides:

2008 Casita

M-17 Spirit Deluxe


Research another travel trailer/5th wheel

Values

Print
Suggested
List Price
Low
Retail
Average
Retail
Base Price $17,164 $4,700 $5,650
Options: (change)
7,000 BTU $225 $270
Furnace (10,000-12,000 BTU) $60 $75
Microwave/Convection Combo $160 $190
Water Heater 6 Gallon Gas/Elec. $80 $95
14" Flat Screen TV $115 $140
Awning 10' - 12' (Each) $230 $275
TOTAL PRICE: $17,164 $5,570 $6,695

Most of these trailers are offered for far more than this - NADA guides is a little low in the price department.   But even assuming those prices are valid, the seller is offering the unit for about 1/3 retail price


* * * 

Using SEARCH TEMPEST we can search ALL the Craigslists across the USA. This guy gets around!
Note the use of weird characters in the titles (~~~~ and so on) - the hall mark of the con artist!

(They do this to avoid Craigslist's bot which cancels identical ads in different cities)

There are dozens of these ads, across the country, in nearly every Craigslist site.   The wording in each case is nearly identical. 

Almost ALL of the ads have been "flagged for removal" as con-jobs.

The few that were still up have the exact same text and list the camper as being in Port Huron, Western Illinois, Texas, etc.   For a camper that was never used, it certainly moves around a lot!

There was TWO REAL ads, one in Kansas and another in Oregon, and they are asking $12,000 and $14,000 which is about what they are worth:

Kansas - Lawrence

(~954 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Oregon - Eugene

(~2423 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google


As you can see, no one is selling these things for $2500.

The rest, below are all FAKES - all copies of the same ad, with small variations:

* * *


SearchTempest is NOT affiliated with craigslist, a registered trademark of craigslist, Inc.
Want results straight from the source, with prices and preview pics?
Try Direct Results!

South Carolina - Charleston

(~148 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Florida - Orlando

(~173 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
Oct 26, 2015
orlando.craigslist.org > rvs - by dealer

Sponsored Results

Hide for a month

Georgia - Athens

(~232 mi.) Map Directions

South Carolina - Greenville / Upstate

(~270 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

North Carolina - Fayetteville

(~314 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google


Mississippi - Hattiesburg

(~466 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Virginia - Richmond

(~503 mi.) Map Directions

Mississippi - Jackson

(~523 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Louisiana - Houma

(~564 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
2008~~~ Casita ~~~Spirit Deluxe 17'~~~~~~~ - $2500

Mississippi - Hattiesburg

(~466 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Virginia - Richmond

(~503 mi.) Map Directions

Mississippi - Jackson

(~523 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Louisiana - Houma

(~564 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
2008~~~ Casita ~~~Spirit Deluxe 17'~~~~~~~ - $2000


Maryland - Annapolis

(~615 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Maryland - Baltimore

(~631 mi.) Map Directions

Missouri - Southeast Missouri

(~649 mi.) Map Directions

Pennsylvania - Cumberland Valley

(~649 mi.) Map Directions

Arkansas - Little Rock

(~681 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Pennsylvania - Harrisburg

(~686 mi.) Map Directions

Illinois - Decatur

(~741 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Illinois - Springfield

(~762 mi.) Map Directions

Pennsylvania - Erie

(~770 mi.) Map Directions

Indiana - South Bend / Michiana

(~783 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Michigan - Detroit Metro

(~785 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
Oct 18, 2015
detroit.craigslist.org > mcb > rvs - by owner

Texas - Galveston

(~808 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Missouri - Columbia / Jeff City

(~824 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Michigan - Port Huron

(~826 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

New York - Buffalo

(~830 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
Oct 17, 2015
buffalo.craigslist.org > rvs - by dealer

Illinois - Western IL

(~832 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Michigan - Flint

(~837 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google


New York - Hudson Valley

(~845 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

New York - Finger Lakes

(~847 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Connecticut - New Haven

(~852 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Missouri - Joplin

(~857 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

New York - Oneonta

(~863 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

New York - Catskills

(~877 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Missouri - Kirksville

(~890 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Wisconsin - Milwaukee

(~902 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Texas - Texoma

(~910 mi.) Map Directions

Texas - Dallas / Fort Worth

(~910 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
~2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe 17

Massachusetts - Worcester / Central MA

(~940 mi.) Map Directions

New York - Glens Falls

(~948 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Kansas - Lawrence

(~954 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Massachusetts - Cape Cod / Islands

(~956 mi.) Map Directions

Oklahoma - Stillwater

(~965 mi.) Map Directions

Texas - Austin

(~971 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Oklahoma - Lawton

(~1015 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
Oct 20, 2015
lawton.craigslist.org > rvs - by dealer

Iowa - Mason City

(~1057 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Kansas - Salina

(~1062 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

Texas - Laredo

(~1116 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
2008~~~ Casita~~~~ Spirit Deluxe 17'~~~~ - $2500

Utah - Logan

(~1834 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
Oct 19, 2015
logan.craigslist.org > rvs - by dealer

California - Bakersfield

(~2181 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

California - Fresno / Madera

(~2220 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google

California - San Luis Obispo

(~2274 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
2008 Casita Spirit Deluxe 17'

California - San Francisco Bay Area

(~2364 mi.) Map Directions
powered by Google
* * * 

So is this a scam?  Clearly so. Although not ALL the C/L scam indicia are present, enough of them are to raise the red flags.   The most telling is that someone would advertise a trailer for sale for 1/3 the book value - and then place the same ad in all 50 States.

We don't have to wait for the other shoe to drop.   If we respond to Mr. Pearson's e-mail, we'll get the pitch for a Western Union "deposit".

There is a real owner of this trailer out there somewhere, who will be awfully surprised to see his photos hijacked for this scam.

These are not hard to spot.  You just have to be skeptical and do a little research.

I will contact "Mr. Pearson" and see what the pitch is, and if he responds, I will update this posting.  Usually these pitchmen don't respond right away, as they want to build tension and anxiety in the "Mark" so they will be eager to send their money!

UPDATE:  I e-mailed "Mr. Pearson" and after a day he responded.   Scammers like to keep their Marks waiting, as it builds tension.  So expect three or four e-mails, all a day or two apart, before getting down to business.   Here is his reply today:

Bob ,

I'm selling it because I want to do a slight renovation on one of the cottages and I need money.

I want to use eBay to handle the transaction. I am choosing this type of service because is impossible to come back home anytime when someone wants to see the camper. If we the deal through eBay, you can inspect the camper before I am paid and i'll be sure that the buyer have the money and we agreed on a price.

As soon as the transaction through eBay is completed , we can make arrangements for pickup or for delivery and I can come back home in same day or one day after. You will have 5 days to inspect the camper before eBay pay me.

In order to start the transaction just send me your name and address.

Thanks,
John

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Device

Another posting on Craigslist explains the scam further:

17' Casita $2000.00 SCAM ALERT - $2000

2000 CASITA
fuel: hybrid
transmission: other
There is an ad for a casita for 2000.00. This is a scam. He will tell you to get paypal cash cards.

DO NOT FALL FOR THIS
  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers
So the pitch will be to "complete the transaction on eBay" but of course, they will ask for a PayPal cash card.  What the heck is that?   It is a pre-paid debit card, and with pre-paid debit cards there are no refunds for fraudulent transactions.   If you give the card number and PIN to a stranger, they can drain all the money from the card, end of story.

I replied to "John" that it sounds swell!  And I asked him where it is listed on eBay.   "John" is counting on people not being very sophisticated or understanding how eBay works.

Stay Tuned.....

8 comments:

  1. See also:

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/2603800/just-five-gangs-in-nigeria-are-behind-most-craigslist-buyer-scams.html

    and

    http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=1784224

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is a link to the "eBay Invoice" they will send you, asking to pay by PayPal "green dot" (pre-paid debit card).

    http://reportcraigslistscams.com/xzclf/1/posts/1_Reported_Craigslist_Scams/1__/15122_Casita_Trailer_16_2009_tantalizing_2937.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Read that "invoice" carefully - the English is horrific!

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Once the vehicle is delivered, the buyer has a 5 days [sic] inspection period. After the inspection period is over, the buyer will contact eBay with the results of the inspection. If, for any reason, the vehicle does not pass the Purchaser's inspection, it will be returned to the seller, on seller's expense [sic] and the funds will be returned to the buyer, in full in within 24 hours, using the same payment method, Green Dot-MoneyPak transfer.

    For safety reasons the payment details will be dealt with the utmost security and will not be handed to any third parties. eBay will be in full control of the funds as soon as it reaches our trust fund account, so we will be able to protect and guarantee your funds. Once the funds have been sent to our trust fund account, no one but the Purchaser will have access to it."

    ReplyDelete
  5. I received a reply from "Mr. Pearson" who said he "set up the transaction on eBay" and for some reason his address is now in Georgia instead of Niagara New York. I offered to have a friend in Buffalo bring him cash, of course he will turn that down.

    Two "invoices" arrived in my e-mail SPAM box, which have a lot of !!!! in them and claim to be from "Ebay motors verification team" or some such nonsense.

    They want me to get five (5) greet dot cash cards for $500 each and then send them the card number and PIN number so they can cash the cards out, of course. Of course, this means they get the cash, as the transaction is not being handled by eBay or anyone else.

    I would have pasted the e-mails here but they were so intensely embedded with HTML programming that they crashed Blogger! Pretty smart folks, pretty dumb scam.

    Pretty dumb con, but a lot of people don't understand how eBay really works, and they see a trademarked logo and assume it is all on the up and up.

    It ain't.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The saga continues. The scammer keeps posting, people keep flagging. His posts use fragments of the text in the title, so they are often incoherent. Several people across the country have posted scam warnings on C/L, some saying they were taken in by the scam.

    At least four people have admitted to sending money (that's $10,000 right there). I am sure there are others who did not speak up.

    Sad!

    ReplyDelete
  7. UPDATE: I put a posting on Craigslist titled "CASITA SCAM" warning people not to bite on these scams. A few weeks later, I get this response by e-mail:

    Happy Thanksgiving

    I have responded many times to your add on craigs list., but the Craigslist reply email back to you, is bouncing...I have switched over to a new email account as i guess I had trouble with my old one, hope you get will get this,..Do you still have it? can you reduce the price a bit? What type of discount do you have in mind? email me to susmanjanie@yahoo.com and Please provide me a phone number I can reach you at so we can discuss details. Happy thanksgiving to you.



    Happy Connecting. Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S® 5


    ReplyDelete
  8. I am getting 2-3 e-mails a day who want to buy my "CASITA SCAMS!" posting on Craigslist, which warns of scams, and is not selling anything. This is a typical e-mail, which sounds like I already responded to him, which of course, I did not. Note how he tries to make it sound folksy and also like he is local. But the key is, he talks about "the item" not the name of the actual thing for sale (which of course, would be impossible, as I have LISTED NOTHING FOR SALE!):

    Tomorrow morning might work actually. I'm leaving for work at around 730am actually, but I think my mother or aunt should be around at 8am to check the item for me . Evenings/nights work best if you're available. Your telephone number was blocked otherwise I would have called you. Let me know what you think when you have a chance. email me @ jlewis@westbuyerr.com

    Thanks,

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Note also that these e-mails come in droves after an item has been listed for more than two weeks. They assume (rightly) that anyone with a listing at that point is going to be desperate to sell.

    ReplyDelete

Sorry, Comments have been disabled due to the large amount of SPAM and TROLLING as well as GROOMING comments. Thanks for reading, though.

NOTE: Blogger says below that "only members may comment" - however comments have been disabled and I have no idea how to make someone a "member". Sorry!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.