I was scammed on Craigslist.
We’ve established that Craigslist is the source of all awesomeness. But it’s also the source of the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. And now that we know each other so well, I think it’s time I told you the story of how I was scammed out of $200.
NOT because the internet is a scary place full of evil people.
NOT due to some sophisticated bait and switch.
Not for any reason at all, other than because I did not stop to apply rational thought to the experience I was having.
Instead, I did what I do best—charged past red-flag after red-flag… gleefully digging my own grave. And I will say this about myself—no one digs a grave like me.
In the last year, I’ve heard the phrase “under the ether.” To describe how scammers depend on emotion replacing common sense. And how people who are taken by scammers later wonder how they did not take five seconds to just THINK about whether this was a likely situation… because FIVE SECONDS is all you need to realize you are being an idiot.
Having had that exact experience, I was able to nod and congratulate myself on being totally textbook.
So. Last year my dad lost his iPhone. He put it on top of his car… and drove away.
I put an ad on Craigslist.
I should emphasize that I did NOT expect a response to my Craigslist ad. If you’re familiar with Philadelphia, you’ll recognize this is not a neighborhood where you might expect to have your phone returned and I credit the element of surprise, combined with my eagerness to believe the unbelievable, combined with my natural idiocy… which allowed me to dispense with reason.
It was a Monday. Around 10 a.m. I was sitting at my desk and my cell phone rang.
The guy on the other end said—I think I have your phone.
I freaked out.
He said—can you verify the color of the case?
And? Brace yourself.
I’m sure this will surprise you as much as it did me:
Amazingly, it was the EXACT same case.
Plus? It was totally amazing how he’d been visiting his brother in Philadelphia and bought the phone from a kid on the street… and now that he was on his way home, he mentioned to his wife that he bought it. And she chided him that it was probably stolen… but now he was in North Carolina. And the phone was dead, so he couldn’t look to see whose it was. But his wife looked on Craigslist and made him call me. And now he was checking out of his hotel and wanted to get on the road, and could send it to me overnight if I wired him money through Western Union.
From the page on craigslist dedicated to making sure idiots are protected from themselves:
I cannot say the guy’s story made total sense to me, because there was no point at which I applied any sense to the conversation. My only response was JOY that I had recovered my dad’s phone.
I accepted it at face value. And as scam stories go, I think it was pretty decent… I mean, it’s better than the Nigerian prince.
AND? The real kicker was that he paid $50 for it, and that was ALL he wanted. Plus shipping.
He did NOT want the $300 reward.
But I was like, oh my God you are so amazing.
And your WIFE!!! SHE is so amazing.
And my dad is going to be so amazed!
And I cannot believe this worked out so amazingly.
So I insisted—I AM SENDING YOU $200.
BECAUSE YOU ARE SO AMAZING.
Plus, I was practically getting a bargain.
I was saving $100!
Then I RAN to Western Union. Because this amazing guy was on the road, and wanted to mail it out that morning, and he didn’t have too much time, and I had to do it RIGHT AWAY.
Then I called Paul and said—you will NOT believe what just happened!!!
Meaning my good fortune.
Meaning the amazingness.
Meaning the incredible generosity of the human spirit and Craigslist’s near-cosmic ability to solve all of life’s woes.
Paul said— are you sure? That sounds like a scam.
And then immediately I was like—DAMMIT.
That was totally a scam.
Once Paul said those words, there wasn’t even any transition period where my brain tried to deny it. IMMEDIATELY the spell was broken. And I sat there totally confused how I had done something so obviously stupid. I mean, I’ve done plenty of stupid things that were arguably avoidable, but not like this. Not SO OBVIOUS.
Paul said—look, I can’t talk right now, but I will make fun of you as soon as I get home.
Be sure you’re there.
Then the rest of the day he texted me stuff like:
Arkansas is NOT for sale.
DO NOT BUY ARKANSAS.
But when Paul got home, he didn’t mock me. He said that he’d decided I couldn’t actually claim to have been scammed at all. Since being scammed requires some level of hesitancy or inquisitiveness– a suspension of disbelief rather than just plowing forward without thought.
I wasn’t even angry at the guy. My eagerness was such that he must have several times thought that I was scamming him.
My principal feeling was embarrassment. At being the dumbest target ever.
I COULD have been scammed for $50 dollars plus $30 for imaginary overnight shipping.
But no. I had to INSIST on sending extra.
This was so mortifying I couldn’t tell anyone.
If my brothers find out? I will NEVER hear the end of it.
When I’m on my deathbed, they will hobble in with their walkers and their oxygen tanks, and they will be sure it’s the last thing I think of before I die.
They will say things like—hey Vic? Can you hear us? Remember the time you gave that guy extra money to scam you?
And also—hey Vic? Remember that time you bought your own gas cap?
And I will come out of my coma and be like—HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT I WAS BEING SCAMMED WITH MY GAS CAP???????
Then I will die.
I think of myself as being a great judge of people.
But after being presented with some pretty fundamental evidence to the contrary, I think I need to reevaluate.
Christine Van Gorder
July 16, 2013 @ 11:46 am
Being trusting does NOT make you dumb! I like you all the more since you fell for it. This world needs more unjaded souls like you!
July 16, 2013 @ 11:46 am
I love your spirit to believe in the good of this world. Don’t ever lose that. This would totally happen to me. (Scammers don’t seek me out). You are awesome! And thanks for sharing your tale.
July 16, 2013 @ 11:47 am
don’t ever apologize for wanting to believe in the goodness of human nature……….but now you will always doubt human nature and that is a shame !
July 16, 2013 @ 11:47 am
My favorite part of this post is Paul promising to mock you when he got home , then sending emails mocking you from afar!
July 16, 2013 @ 11:52 am
Hey, if you give a man $200 and you never see (or hear from) him again, then it’s money well-spent. Perhaps that will make you feel better!
Also, it makes me so happy that your husband was all BWAHA! instead of OMBob! I can’t believe you just cost us 200 freaking dollars! How COULD you! It makes me like Paul even more. You definitely found a keeper!
July 16, 2013 @ 11:52 am
Oh my goodness, you are priceless! (As is your husband)
The Craigslist gods: They giveth, and they taketh away. 😉
July 16, 2013 @ 11:53 am
Elizabeth- You wrote very clearly. As soon as I read that he asked you to describe the case I said- “ah-ha” But, it was “do not buy Arkansas that doubled me over with laughter. I love reading your posts- and now see that the comments are must reads also!
July 16, 2013 @ 11:57 am
You are probley as unfamiliar with scams as I am,(with the exception of those described in Addie Pray, the book the movie Paper Moon was based on). However, I recently purchased sailboat parts from a very nice man through Craigslist, who took a check from me, I was then telling him I wanted to sell a rug through Craigslist and he told me to never ever, ever, ever, allow someone in my home. To never ever, ever take Western union, as the purchaser can cancel the money order, in ten days if it was deposited in a bank account! And ironically although he took a personal check from me to never, ever take a personal check. I don’t think there are a ton of people out there scamming for sunfish parts!
So if you think you’ve been scammed, race back to any western union office and cancel the money order, too late for you Victoria but perhaps wise words for anyone making a future purchase! Or who think they have been scammed!
Oh he also mentioned, not to respond to any e-mail, if you are selling that does not specifically mention the item that you are selling! Also, do not “hold” an item for someone who is offering you more money than you are asking!
July 16, 2013 @ 11:59 am
You TOTALLY made me laugh out loud this morning. Not about the scam. Not even about Paul. But about your HEAD STONE. Oh. Dear. GOD! You are SO funny!
July 16, 2013 @ 12:05 pm
I think it’s awesome how much faith you have in humanity and honesty. But, maybe I’m just saying that because I would have done the exact same thing!
July 16, 2013 @ 12:22 pm
I found an iPod years ago in an airplane seat pocket. I tried and tried and tried to find the owner. I called Apple with the serial number – they said it wasn’t registered. (If it had been registered, they would have paid the shipping for me to send it to them so they could return it to the owner.)
The airline said that there was no way to know which airport the owner had come to or gone from, so it would be better for me to call the Lost and Found at each of the airports the plane had been at in the last day, and report my find. I did. Nobody ever called me to claim it.
I posted in Craigslist and checked it for weeks.
Never found the owner.
July 16, 2013 @ 12:29 pm
Oh thank you for being brave & sharing!! LOVE your writing.
(AND I will still love Craigslist and it’s wonderful goodies to be had if only you search long enough…but I will read and follow the warnings from now on thank you!!!)
July 16, 2013 @ 12:36 pm
Oh my!! I feel really terrible at what happened to you….
Scam or not…this just wasn’t right!!
Sorry you had to lose $200 to make you aware that people on craigslist and not who they seem. …
July 16, 2013 @ 12:40 pm
yes… you are welcomed into the “I’ve been scammed” club… hello, I am The President and also a Lifetime Member
July 16, 2013 @ 12:49 pm
Victoria, As usual, a fantastic story and a good laugh. You trusted him because you would never treat anyone that way so you wouldn’t expect it if others! Good for you 🙂 Sorry about the $200 lesson though….
July 16, 2013 @ 12:50 pm
July 16, 2013 @ 12:52 pm
ROTFL…I love the cemetery scene!!!! You get a gold star for being so cool about this situation. I bought a box of bricks once…innocent, naive victim of a bait and switch. Gotta luv it.
July 16, 2013 @ 12:57 pm
(wipes tears of deeply sympathetic laughter)
As my Grampa would’ve said; bless your kind heart and soft head.
Also, my friends in Arizona totally have a bridge.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:06 pm
You got iPhone catfished!!!
Oh dear. Well, you learned a great lesson, and it only cost 200.00.
Made me laugh though.
My husband got sucked into a magazine scam. They called and offered him all these magazines for a ridiculous price, and all they needed us to pay was S&H. Like a goon,he offered up his card number. BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE!! That card “didn’t work” for the scammers so they asked for another one. AND HE GAVE THEM THAT ONE TOO!!!!!!!
Several months later and we’ve finally got everything back to normal, and the scammer calls have stopped.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:08 pm
I just found an ipod touch on the ground at a park I put it on craigslist saying whoever can identify its color, case, and distinguishing marks or genre gets it back. Asking him to tell you what it looked like wouldn’t have worked. .. (ok well it would have with him but an honest person like me wants to make sure it goes to the right person) I totally would have done the EXACT same thing you did, right down to “you’re so awesome i want to give you even more money”. I’ve even PayPal-ed someone that promised to mail an awesome shiny object and Gave them my FedEx number to mail it!! It was a 12ft CRYSTAL AND GOLD chandelier from…. Texas!!! I swear we are related. I read your post and say yup yup yup done it done it done it. Oh that I had the gift to retell the tale as you! He covered himself with the dead battery and leaving town thing. I would have bought every word. I totally get caught up in the awesomeness of the people and the urgency and excitement of the deal. But look at it this way, you paid $280 for a mirror that is undisputedly worth $1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Which you will clearly be able to walk thru one day to your own private kingdom in the enchanted land of Texas..well just as soon as you say the magic words while rubbing her lovingly. Don’t worry it’ll happen. So i say… you’re still waaaaaay ahead.