Sunday, March 3, 2024

Another Too-Good-To-Be-True Craigslist Scam?

There are some telltale signs this may be a scam.

How can you tell if a listing on Craigslist is a scam?  At first, things look real and look desirable - too good to be true, in fact.  The evil Genie has shown up again, trying to trick you out of your money.

Mark showed me the listing for the boat above - a "Gayliner" of course, not the greatest boats ever made.  We've owned three - a 2155 cruiser, a 2655 cruiser, and a 285 whale that was comfortable, but couldn't get out of its own way.  This listing, for a 2008 245 (Bayliner went from four digit model numbers to three) seems intriguing.

But the listing!

First red flag, the photos.  This is a sixteen-year-old boat and the photos show it looking like the day they took delivery.  And sadly, even "legitimate" sellers on Craigslist do this - showing the photos of the boat on the day they bought it, not the day they are selling it.  Even in storage for 16 years, there is going to be some wear and tear.  But none of it showing here.  Also not shown are any photos of the engine or interior.  Weird, unless of course, the photos were scraped from the Internet.

I did a reverse image search using Google lens, but only found similar photos, not exact matches.  Could it be legit?

Next, the description.  Claims to have 18 hours on the engine, which is about one hour a year!  If so, this boat has been in storage a long, long time.  Almost worse, if true, as engines don't like to sit. But hard to believe.  They claim 10 hours on a Westerbeke generator as well.  But this boat is pretty small - a very tight fit for a generator and an odd choice unless it also has built-in A/C which for some reason they do not mention.

The price is low - too low. A quick search of online sales shows asking prices for well-used models of the same year going for $35,000 to $40,000.  NADA claims the boat is worth $23,000 in "average" condition.  However, as spec'ed with low hours and a generator it should be worth $30,000 or more. This is the real tip-off.  Too good to be true!

Then there is the weird wording in the description:

“This vessel is truly a must see! Just 18 Actual hours! Only 10 hours on Westerbeke Gen Set! New ” She is a very solid deep-vee hull with all brass through hull fittings. This model also has lots of free board (deep inside) for safety. This vessel also has a beautiful well built finished hard top

Free board?  Odd thing to harp on.  No mention of engine size (there were two gas engines offered and even a diesel) or other options.  GPS?  Depth finder?  What?  Brass through-hull fittings?  Really?  Why are the ones shown in the photos white plastic?  (The fact there are so many of them may be a tipoff that the generator is real and there is also A/C).  But weird things to say and so little to say when selling something so expensive. Why is the hard top described as "beautiful well built finished" - someone is speaking English as a second language perhaps?

Why is the first line in quotes?

It also sounds like text scraped from a different ad. I saw this a lot with scam Casita listings, where people would claim their 17' Casita had three slide-outs (physically impossible) and a generator (not shown in the photos).  The text was taken from some random listing of a motorhome.

I send them an e-mail and usually the way this works is they don't get back to you for a few days.  The reasons for this are many - Nigeria is in a different time zone, for starters.  They may want to build up tension by delaying.  They may need help with translation.  When you do get a reply, it is "Sorry for the delay, but I was [insert lame excuse] which is why I am selling this boat!"

Coming next is a request for Apple gift cards as a "deposit."

I will update this posting shortly to see what happens.  But I doubt I will end up with a boat out of the deal.

UPDATE:  I contacted the seller twice with no response.  Either it sold or was a scam.  I suspect the latter, although I have not seen the same listing elsewhere. Not on Facebook marketplace or on BoatTrader.  Whatever the case, it is a weird listing!  Why would you have a boat, never use it for nearly two decades, list it only on Craigslist with a weird brief incomplete description and then never answer e-mails?  Maybe it is the CIA sending coded messages overseas!

UPDATE:  So it has been a week and no reply to my e-mails and no phone number was provided in the listing.  Other, real listings, have a plethora of photos and descriptions of the hardware, not weird text about "free board."  I found a similar listing for a Sea Ray deck boat, at a price well below book.  Three photos, one of a seat, another of the stern, and another of a suspiciously clean hull (for a 16-year-old boat).  The description? "Imagine the fun you'll have in this boat!"  Great - can you tell me what engine it has?  How about an actual photo of the whole boat?

Scam?  Or are people just weird?  Or both?

UPDATE:  I searched on the quoted term in the listing and found this listing online for $33,000 with 200 photos - from 2020.  Same boat!  So the scammers "scraped" some photos, scraped some text, and then put a ridiculous price on it and listed it on Craigslist.  SCAM.  Total scam!