What scam is this?
July 8, 2006 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I posted an electronics item for sale on craigslist and began receiving several questionable offers for purchase, but none that are explicitly described by craigslist as a scam.

Not long after posting my ad (selling an Xbox), I received several offers for purchase, but they all seemed fishy. All of them were very short (one or two sentences), every single one used poor grammar, and most inquired about the condition of the item for sale and had a sense of urgency. They all came from different e-mail addresses, so they don't appear to be from the same person.

Are all these people just setting up for some kind of wire transfer scam? Even though some have offered to come right over to pick it up? Of course I haven't replied to any of them to see what their next step would be. Or are they going to all that trouble just to get my real e-mail address in a response to add to their spam list?

Here are a couple of samples:

* Hello seller. i saw your items on craigslist site so i am interested in it so much and i will like to if this item is still for sell so mail me back if it is.........thanks

* Hi, I have interest in Your item So get back with condition & if it's for sale Asap

If I only received ONE such message, of course I'd just chalk it up as being legit and the person maybe not having English as a first language or just being a sloppy writer, no big deal. But I've gotten about 10-15 responses, and they are ALL in this style, usually the grammar is much worse.

Is this just something common to expect when selling on craigslist now? It seems pretty rampant.
posted by robbie01 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Here's the rule: if they're not local to you and aren't picking up in person, it's a scam.

And yes, that one's rampant. What'll happen: you'll mail them back that it's in good shape and they'll mail you back and offer you more than the price you're asking and want to know where to send the cash.

I get them for every item I put on CL. I put an iPod on there the other day for c$380 and the guy offered me us$470 for it. Idiots.
posted by dobbs at 11:04 AM on July 8, 2006

Spambots looking for your e-mail address?
posted by Xalf at 11:42 AM on July 8, 2006

No, they're scammers. (No need to waste that much effort on getting email addresses, there are much easier ways.)

They work just like dobbs said -- offer to send you more than your asking price (usually via a forged check) and get you to return the change.

You will get tons of these scammers emails no matter what you post on craigslist. It's just the way it goes.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:34 PM on July 8, 2006

I'm guessing (having had an officemate scammed in a roommate-search service) that it involves forged money orders, with you being the 'mule'.
posted by kimota at 12:35 PM on July 8, 2006

Also, since it is an XBox you may be getting kids trying to buy it, which would explain the poor English.
posted by Loto at 1:43 PM on July 8, 2006

Easy. Don't accept anything except cash or bank draft, and an in-person transaction. They do sound fishy though.
posted by defcom1 at 2:34 PM on July 8, 2006

Some are probably scammers, but seriously, the Internet is *full* of people who can barely form a complete sentence and for whom operating a keyboard is a serious challenge*. I once received an email from an insurance agent's office responding to my in person inquiry about rates that had no subject and was written in all caps. I won't even go into the crap I see trying to book shows. There are a lot of scammers and spammers, but I feel pretty sure that they're outnumbered by illiterates.

*(Not that this is their fault, but usability metaphors need to be learned and using technology, even technology as eubiquitous as email or a web browser is very much a skill that those of us on metafilter learned a long time ago. It's easy to forget this. Plus, systems are hard to use. All of you IA/UX/design types should get on that.)
posted by stet at 6:22 PM on July 8, 2006

Like stet, I vote illiterates; I get a lot of those myself.

Incompetence has always been in greater supply than malfeasance.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:07 PM on July 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I get emails similar to that when I list stuff in the free section on Craigslist, so I don't think it's necessarily a sign of a scam. Some people just write really bad emails.
posted by clarissajoy at 7:24 PM on July 8, 2006

I think many might be scams; you wouldn't know until you wrote back and then started getting the offers of more money. Like others replying above me, I think they are mostly from illiterate dumbasses.

I recently posted a free rug on Craigslist. I got about 50 shockingly illiterate responses, begging me for the rug. Seriously unintelligible garbage. Unreal.
posted by peep at 7:58 PM on July 8, 2006

Since you're selling a toy, you're going to get a lot of kids wanting to buy it.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 AM on July 9, 2006

Ditto clarissajoy -- I recently posted a wifi router in the free section and got half a dozen grammar optional responses that sound like the examples you cited. (I went into it planning to give it to the first respondent; I ended up giving it to the only respondent who actually wrote a paragraph.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:36 AM on July 9, 2006

It sounds to me like Dobbs is right about the nature of the scam. However, FWIW, I've bought and sold a fair amount of stuff on eBay, and I've noticed that any text involving a videogame transaction (whether from a buyer or seller) is more likely to be poorly written than text relating to other transactions. As delmoi says, this seems to be related to the age of the people involved.

So, it is certainly possible that the e-mail you are getting includes e-mail from not-very-literate but sincere young folk as well as e-mail from scammers.
posted by yankeefog at 8:52 AM on July 10, 2006

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