Saturday, May 27, 2017

Viewer Mail - Craigslist Scammers and Timewasters

It seems that nearly all responses you get on Craigslist are just scammers or bots.

A reader writes, in response to one of my Craigslist Scam postings, in which I mentioned that you will get weird e-mails if you post on Craigslist, asking "Is the item still available?"
"I disagree.  A legit buyer will more than likely say, “Is it still for sale”, “when can I see it”, “will you take $____ for it instead?”, things like that."
I'm not sure I agree with this logic.   Or at the very least, why wouldn't you ask all of these things in one email?  Why bother asking "is the item still available?" as your only question?  I get a lot of robo-replies to Craigslist postings that are like this.  And lately, it seems they are getting more sophisticated.   For example, I recently posted two listings for some 18" golf cart tires and a battery charger for an EZ-GO golf cart.   I got two weird replies, the first was "are these 18" tires?" (the size was in the title!) and the second was "Will this charger work for an EZ-GO?" (again in the title!).   I think they are getting more clever with their bots to get you to respond, which in turn gives them a legit e-mail address they can harvest and sell.  It seems I get more SPAM e-mails if I respond to these kind of weird questions.

But others are far more primitive.   For example, if you list a car for sale, you will get an e-mail asking "What is your final price?"   -  "Final price" is not a phrase that Americans use, but many foreigners use - which tips me off that it is probably a Nigerian scammer.  As the reader noted, the use of "kindly" and "regrets" (both common British English sayings) are also a tip-off that you are talking to someone who is from a former British colony.  Nigeria.

A weird one lately are e-mails addressing me as "Dearie" - as if grandma was sending me a Nigerian Scam letter.   I am not sure what is up with that, only that it must work, or they wouldn't use it.

"Will you take $1000?" might sound legit, until you get five e-mails from fishy addresses and odd names (Jeb Stewart? - no, really) with the exact same wording.   Very odd that someone would offer a price for merchandise WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT IT.  Even odder that five people would make the same price offer.  I suspect a 'bot is programmed to look for a price and then generate an e-mail saying "Will you take (price-$500)" to try to sound legit.   After all, agreeing to pay full price is suspicious, right?

"Is the Item still for sale?"  or "Is the vehicle still for sale?" are also red flags.   No mention of what the "item" is, or what kind of "vehicle" we are talking about (could cover cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.).   Again, scammers want to use generic responses, perhaps using a 'bot, to cover as many postings as possible.

And a note:  If the item is still on C/L, it is still for sale, right?  What numb-nuts leaves up a C/L posting after selling something?   So asking if the item is still available is just redundant and wastes everyone's time.   And the telling thing is, every single damn e-mail asking whether the item was still available that I responded to, never resulted in a further inquiry.   Well, except one, where two days later (typical, to build tension) the "buyer" told me he would buy the "vehicle" for $2000 over asking price and have it shipped overseas - with me wiring the surplus to a friend to cover shipping.   In other words, the classic Craigslist Nigerian overpayment Western Union Scam.

Craigslist is a LOCAL sales advertising medium.  There is no need to get caught up in rounds of e-mail discussions for such things.  There is no need for five e-mails in order to sell a $100 item.   If you are interested in an item, a real person would not waste time asking if it was available or negotiating on price before even seeing the item in person.

One way to avoid this problem is to put in your Craigslist ads, a note to CALL your phone number (no texts!) if they want more information, or to put THEIR PHONE NUMBER in their e-mail if they want me to respond.  That way, you filter out the scammers and bots.

Most people on C/L just don't respond to e-mails anymore, as so many of them are phony, if you'll pardon the pun.   A Nigerian scammer won't CALL as their thick accent will be a giveaway (not to mention their foreign area code in your caller ID).   Responding to e-mails and texts, is, ironically, the riskiest way of doing business on Craigslist.   Talking to a person, in person, is the best.

Now there has been a lot of press lately about "Craigslist murders" or "Person robbed on Craigslist" which is an interesting way to phrase things.   If you were selling your car in the classifieds and murdered or robbed, the media would not call it a "classified ad murder" of course.  But the media loves to put cyber-this and e-that in front of everything, and of course to scare the oldsters who thought all this "Internets" stuff was just hooey to begin with.   You are far more likely to be killed on Facebook anyway.   Just kidding about that last part, but who knows?  It may be true.   At least you are far more likely to be bullied or indoctrinated.

Sadly, Craigslist has been, in my experience, a big time-waster personally.   You get a lot of tire-kickers and dreamers, if you get any real interest at all (and not just bots harvesting names or looking to scam you).   I have sold over a dozen vehicles (cars, boats, motorcyles, RVs, trailers) on eBay with no problems at all.   I have never sold a single vehicle through Craigslist, even though I have listed nearly all of the ones I sold on eBay.   The problem with Craigslist is that it is a local medium, and your audience is very limited, so the odds of finding a buyer are much slimmer - and even if you did, you won't get the optimal price.

I have bought very little on Craigslist as well - most people who advertise there are dreamers, wanting thousands for a clapped-out car ("I know what I got here, so no low-ballers!").   Since the cost of listing an item is FREE, it encourages hoarders and dreamers to list their merchandise for obscene prices.  I have also found that a lot of people who sell on Craigslist are squirrely.  You e-mail or call about an item and they get evasive about it, or just don't return your calls.   It is another aspect of the "it's for sale but it's not for sale" or perpetual for sale gambit - which are time-wasters as well.

Another annoying aspect of C/L is that dealers are increasingly getting bold about putting cars "for sale by owner" when the photos clearly show them on a dealer lot - and they have 10 or 20 such ads in the "for sale by owner" section.   Worse yet, they have a page of junk text designed to snare you if you use a search term.   Remember what I said about people lying to you?   Here is a car dealer lying - using search terms in junk text - to get you to click on their ad.   They have no compunction about breaking Craigslist's rules - advertising dealer cars in the "for sale by owner" section.   You think things are going to go uphill from there?

Throw in the scammers and the bots and, well, Craigslist is just not a very useful advertising media.   It can be a good place to kill a half-hour laughing at some of the entries, though!