Internet Scam Savvy
June 2, 2006 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I posted something for sale on Craigslist. The first response I got was interested and asked normal questions. I responded, but the followup from the possible buyer was totally different tone and asking to pay in a form (AlertPay International Money Order) I'm not familiar with and can't find through a search. I want to sell this item, but I don't want to be scammed. Anyone know what AlertPay International Money Order is and whether it's on the level?

Thanks For Your Reply.. Requring my payment method, I will be sending you the payment through via (AlertPay International Money Order). And before the payment can be commenced, I will require for your full name and address, for the payment to be proceed. And i am willing offering you ($250.00).

Note: Once (AlertPay) has confirmed that i have a valid account and the money has been issued then the payment will be approved and the confirmation will be sent to you from (AlertPay International Money Order) via email.Shipping is going to be arranged with my personal Fedex account. Waiting to hear from you as soon as possible so payment can be Ordered and we can have a fast transaction between ourselves.
Thanks And Best Regards.
Am I being scammed? And if not, any reasons they couldn't just pay me through PayPal? I sent an email back saying cash or PayPal only, and then sent a basic money request through PayPal for goods. I don't expect a reply. I'd like to give Craigslist a heads up if this is a scam, so other people don't get suckered out of their electronics.
posted by nramsey to Work & Money (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Scammer. Ignore them.

Always use a craigslist anonymous email address when selling things, and you'll get the standard beware-of-scammers report that describes exactly this kind of scenario attached to every reply.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 1:32 PM on June 2, 2006

Total scam.

The telltale signs are the awkward language (pseudo-formal lawyer-speak with a mix of broken english), the form letter aspects: I will pay you (dollar amount) for your (item).

Don't even bother replying.
posted by knave at 1:35 PM on June 2, 2006

Best answer: As someone who sells online I don't deal with anyone who tries to set up anything weird, especially from an international location. That's just asking for trouble.

One possible outcome is that he overpays you on the money order, you deposit the money order with your bank, the guy asks you to send the goods along with a partial refund... then 2 weeks later the bank says the money order is fake and reverses the deposit... and your refund you paid out is gone too.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:46 PM on June 2, 2006

Nthed. Ignore. Obscure payment method + strange language + unusual request for information + international transaction = disaster waiting to happen.
posted by normy at 1:54 PM on June 2, 2006

Response by poster: I think RolyPolyMan nailed the situation. I was asking $200 and this person offered me $250. Probably intended to try what you were talking about.

So then the question within the question is what $ amount is worthwhile to these people to try this with. Seems like you would be caught before you had a substantial amount if you went after these small items.
posted by nramsey at 1:58 PM on June 2, 2006

I once heard of someone-- here maybe?-- who went along with it and had a grand time at the scammer's expense. (S)He made promises, "Oh, I wired the money. Didn't you get it? What? I got the account number wrong? I'm so sorry. I'll try again tomorrow. Oops, I got it wrong again? How on earth? I got the wrong Western Union?" Maybe I read it on craigslist-- on the best of, maybe. It was HI-larious. If you're bored, have some fun. Tell them you couldn't possibly take 250, but maybe if they agreed to 245 you could do that. And write only in broken English. Then report back so we can all get a hearty laugh.
posted by orangemiles at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2006

Since Craigslist is kind of locally oriented, it's usually easy to weed out scams simply by insisting you do the deal in person and for cash only. It has the added benefit that the buyer gets to inspect whatever they're buying beforehand, and can't complain that you misrepresentated yourself after the fact.

Obviously this approach is more complicated, but its way easier to avoid scams for both parties.

To answer your second question, the overpay scam -- at least when selling bicycles, which is what I've sold on craigslist -- usually involves an overpayment of hundreds or thousands of dollars. But these scams work because the scammers are overseas, and almost never get caught. So the overpayment could be anythinig vaguely proportional to the cost of the item, there's low enough risk that it probably doesn't matter.
posted by dseaton at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2006

Here's what I was talking about. Just too funny.
posted by orangemiles at 2:09 PM on June 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Who's going to catch them? In terms of international crime, this sort of thing is small stuff. It's probably safer for the crook to try lots of small scams instead of fewer big ones. Much less likely for anyone to come after them for $200 rather tha $2,000 or $20,000 is my guess.
posted by normy at 2:10 PM on June 2, 2006

You can respond to them, and make them mail out their $250 fake check. The time and effort they spend doing that will be time that they're not scamming someone else.

Don't try to deposit their fake check though. Bank won't like it.
posted by jellicle at 2:23 PM on June 2, 2006

It's a variation on the notorious "Nigerian 419" scam.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2006

I can't beleive you were even considering that this might be legit. Of course it's a scam! Here's a tip: Whenever you think "Hmm, maybe this is a scam" .. IT'S A SCAM!
posted by duckstab at 2:33 PM on June 2, 2006

Sam: Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That's the first thing they teach you.
posted by mojohand at 2:53 PM on June 2, 2006

A good read:

The Perfect Mark --
How a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian e-mail scam.
posted by ericb at 3:13 PM on June 2, 2006

Response by poster: I guess I should have phrased my question more carefully. The first email from this person was totally normal, just asking if it was still for sell and the condition of the item. The second email tipped me off that it was hinky.

I was more looking to see if it was a well-known scam (like you see something from Nigeria you just trash). I don't sell often on craigslist, but when I do it's always for cash. I always use the anonymous email as well.

As far as considering it legit, well, (another tangent) wasn't there a web site that seemed shady, but then if you read the full terms of agreement you ended up getting cash? Urban myth anyone?
posted by nramsey at 3:21 PM on June 2, 2006

Googling brings up lots of identical stories.

Definitely a scam.
posted by essexjan at 3:26 PM on June 2, 2006

I'd tell the guy that you need him to send the money first and you will need to wait 60 days until his money order definitely clears in order to ship the item. Say that in the meantime if anyone can pay cash you'll sell them the item - and give him a refund minus a $249 "International Service Fee."
posted by soulbarn at 5:11 PM on June 2, 2006

The scams and fraud page on Craigslist itself explains how most of these scams work.

Probably the seller would at some point ask you to create an account on some website in order to receive your funds; the site would ask you for a transaction fee or for personal information. The scammer then pockets your fee/information, and possibly uses the information to try to scam you further.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:12 PM on June 2, 2006

nramsey writes only marginally better than MR. UKULELE UBUTO himself.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:19 PM on June 2, 2006

Readers may also be interested in the classic scamming the scammer story of the P-p-p-powerbook. Seriously give it a read if you haven't already, it's hilarious!
posted by crypticgeek at 5:50 PM on June 2, 2006

You can respond to them, and make them mail out their $250 fake check. The time and effort they spend doing that will be time that they're not scamming someone else.

I have here in my grubby little hands two "money orders" for $750.00 each, supposedly for rent on a condo here in Canada. Funny thing is they say "Wal*Mart Financial Services", there's a written address on them saying Wyoming, and the letter was postmarked... Republique Du Benin.

Since I wasn't sure where Benin was, Google tells me, to not much surprise, that it is in Africa. The scammer--er, potential tenant--I was corresponding with, stated she was writing from England.

I know my job is far too busy for me to waste my time playing email with scammers, but sometimes it's difficult to resist replying to them. I was in it for the same reason--while they're thinking they're conning me, hopefully, they're not conning someone else.

The money orders, which I assume are fake, are made out to my dog, by the way. Her name is Clover.
posted by Savannah at 7:35 PM on June 2, 2006

This thing just reads like a Nigerian email scam.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2006

Savannah, you should contact Wal*Mart, they might be more interested and capable of fighting fraud than your local law enforcement.
posted by Megafly at 6:51 PM on June 5, 2006

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