What's the catch in these email scams?
August 21, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

What's the scam in these responses to a craigslist ad I posted?

I do private walks and socialization for anti-social dogs, and posted an ad saying so on craigslist yesterday. Of the pile of spam email I've recieved since then, two stood out:

{Competent cleaner needed

   My name is Maria and my Husband Robert.We live in the United Kingdom.We plan on coming to the state by the end of this month with my family and want to make sure that we have someone to do our household cleaning before we arrive,will be needing you to clean the apartment once or twice a week.I will be offering you $400 weekly and will be needing your services for 3 hours a day at any suitable time of yours for two days a week .I believe you are fit for this position in as much you will prove yourself to be a reliable and hardworking person.
     We will be sub leasing an apartment because we are having a house built and it will not be finished until some time in December this year.  If you decide to accept this position we would like to send you $650 it will serve you as a deposit and also you will have to purchase some cleaning supplies which  will be needing for the cleaning of the house, as i will instruct the Agent to mail you the Keys after getting a house closer to you....we will have  our leasing agent contact you,If this is acceptable please email us back Today}

Looking it up on google, "craigslist house cleaning scam" is actually one of the suggested searches. One of the things I read the guy responded to a very similar letter and they actually sent the guy a check, but he hasn't updated the story since then.

What's the scam here?

The other letter that stood out, I'm not as sure about:

{Hello There ,

Please first of all permit me to express my utmost respect and admiration for you based on your kindness and willingness to help watch over pets while their owners are away . I think thats a very noble and generous job and i would be really glad to have your services rendered to my pets .  I came across your ad and info via craigslist and thats why im writing to let you know that im in search for a generous and trustworthy individual to watch and take care of my pets for the total duration of a month and in that time i am willing to pay you 100$ for each week .. I have a dog(Casper) and a cat (Millie) and they mean absolutely everything to me, i love them just the same way i do my kids and as such i want the very best for them while i am away.It would be helpful to let me know what part of
the city you are based in so as to to determine how far you are from me . I expect that you kindly send me an email as soon as you get this to let me know if my offer stands well with you . Thank you in anticipation of your assistance .}

The things that make this seem fishy to me- they want to know where I am. In the ad I say the areas I'll work in, and it's a service where I come to you. Also, I never say anything about pet-sitting or cats in my ad. And lastly, the letter isn't actually addressed to me, it's addressed to mgmt@princetongrooming.com and that website just says "coming soon". 
I'm considering writing back to the second letter saying I don't do cats and $100 a week is way less than I will work for, but I'm not sure. 

So, are these scam emails?  And if so, what's the payoff? 
posted by gally99 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My guess is that these would turn out to be the standard "overpayment" scam.

There are variations, but it generally works like this: someone promises to pay you $X, sends you a money order or bank check for $X+500 or $X*10, and follows it up with an email saying that the amount is in error and asking you to refund the difference. Of course, the check or money order is fake, the money you remit is real, and you're on the hook.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 4:23 PM on August 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

Yep, I agree with AkzidenzGrotesk; I suspect they're basically check-kiting scams. The check (for $650 in the first one) is forged. At some point later on in the scam, they'd ask for a refund, perhaps of the amount not spent on cleaning supplies. Presumably they'd come up with some reason for haste, to keep you from waiting and realizing that the check is bad ... the goal is to get you to accept the bad check and issue them a check (or cash, or Western Union) back, so that you end up out the "refunded" amount when the check eventually bounces.

I've heard anecdotally that some of these scams can be fairly complex, with a substantial leadup to or even small payments before the eventual "refund" request -- which of course is very large relative to the other amounts. I'm pretty sure I remember reading a story a year or two ago about someone who "hired" freelancers advertising via CL, paid them small amounts over a short span, and then "overpaid" them and requested a refund. Once the marks wrote the "refund" check, the "employer" disappeared along with the money. So there are a lot of variations on the scheme.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:34 PM on August 21, 2010

My thought was that you'd need to pay a deposit for the key in the first example. That or put down the first month's rent for them. They'll happily make out a cheque for that much, and I'm sure you'll get a shiny key for your trouble.
posted by twirlypen at 4:42 PM on August 21, 2010

I'm considering writing back to the second letter

Why in the world would you do that?!? The part about you not understanding why their response doesn't correspond to the facts of your ad is because it's a scam. At best you are only going to waste your time dealing with these idiots.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:44 PM on August 21, 2010 [9 favorites]

(It doesn't correspond to the facts because these people have to respond to craigslist ads in bulk in order to have a reasonable chance at finding a sucker that will fall for their check kiting scam, so they have a limited number of responses that they just copy and paste over and over -- they probably didn't even read your ad, they just saw that it had something to do with pets and so they sent you the cat-sitting response. Next time instruct people to use a given word or phrase in the subject when replying and ruthlessly delete anything that doesn't have it.)
posted by Rhomboid at 5:51 PM on August 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

Regarding the second letter, all replies that ignore my specific directions for how I will do things earn a complete dismissal from me. Don't even email back unless you're using an address set up for this one purpose. I'm never open to giving more information than I agreed to and anyone who is setting up the payment routine their way before I've even said I am considering them is as good as scamming in my book. Craig's list is good for immediate local dealings but people keep trying to beat the system, don't they?
posted by Anitanola at 5:57 PM on August 21, 2010

A simple way to spot any craigslist scam is when the reply does not contain a single specific reference your location. Notice that in ad #2 they say it would be helpful to let me know what part of the city you are based.... I've received similar emails when I lived in a very small town (it took 5 minutes to get from one end of town to the other).

They could have sent that to anyone anywhere.
posted by special-k at 6:15 PM on August 21, 2010

Some scammers have figured out that using correct grammar, appropriate responses, and stringing things out are more successful than pulling the whole stunt in one email.

It would appear that your email number two has been taught these lessons but hasn't executed them quite right.
posted by GPF at 6:35 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's an overpayment scam alright. They are preying on people's ignorance about how cheque clearing works.

When you go and deposit their cheque, say, at your ATM, you won't be able to access the funds because the funds are locked for a few days. BUT when the funds are unlocked, it doesn't mean that the cheque is good. That lock period is only used to filter out obvious fraudulent cheques. Cheques that look "good" may actually get a fair way into the system before it's detected. When the fraud is discovered, the lock may already have been lifted.

The scamster will send you a second email asking for a refund of a portion of the money. You may think the cheque has "cleared" because the funds are unlocked. But you would be wrong. Afterwards when you read the fine print in your banking agreement, you will discover there's a clause in there saying that the "lock" period has nothing to do with cheque validation.
posted by storybored at 8:36 PM on August 21, 2010

.....You'll be out the money you sent back as requested by the scammer....And of course the bank will not reimburse you because the bank doesn't honor bad cheques.
posted by storybored at 8:39 PM on August 21, 2010

The overly-formal tone always says "scam" to me. I agree with the above posters that they both are most likely scams involving forged checks, overpayments, and a "refund" from you. The second letter writer would likely offer to pre-pay for services, then change their mind and demand a refund, or "accidentally" over-pay you and ask for a refund of the difference.
posted by pecanpies at 8:38 AM on August 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you folks, I was totally unaware of this one.
posted by gally99 at 11:56 PM on August 23, 2010

I found these excellent responses after a search prior to posting a similar question. My friend is a personal chef, and has had several of these. The meanest part of this scam is that she could really use the work, and the scams sounds promising at first blush.

We knew it was too good to be true, but not what the angle was.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:36 AM on December 11, 2010

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