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.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:21 pm
I feel your pain! When I was in high school, I worked in a tiny little bookstore off the interstate. I was behind the cash register when this really nice guy told me that he was about to fly out to his niece’s wedding and no one else could afford the trip, so they collected their money together to put in a card so they could all contribute to a really nice gift. He asked if I could take his small bills and replace them with larger ones. No problem, I thought! The details are fuzzy all these years later, but he basically did a bait & switch – he had to go out to the car to get cash to buy a magazine for the plane ride and left me with the card full of money after we switched out the bills. He didn’t come back and I opened up the card and it was full of napkins. I was 16 and DEVASTATED. The store owner was understanding but I felt awful.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:29 pm
Very, very funny post. The thing is, the phone’s screen probably shattered when your dad drove away. Having gone through a different dumb thing with my smart phone where it fell out of my purse that I had set on top of my trunk so I could pet my dog who was happy that I was home, it probably wasn’t even worth trying to find it.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:32 pm
Maybe if this happens to someone in the future, they could charge up the phone (who doesn’t have a charger somewhere – you could even reimburse one bought cheap at a CVS/Walgreens). Then, you could call the phone’s number and have them answer it. That would really be the only test I would trust. If the phone is locked, they couldn’t call you. You have to call them.
July 16, 2013 @ 1:32 pm
Laughing so hard I can hardly breathe! The proof that you are incredible is that I could care less about restoration of old things, or craigslist for that matter…I live a monastic life.
Can’t wait for your next post! 🙂 🙂 🙂
July 16, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
July 16, 2013 @ 1:50 pm
Love your scammer story. I am still mad at myself and more mad at the scammer who took my money to redesign my blog. There were a few alarm bells going off that I was unable to see due to my excitement at getting a new look for my blog. I am praying to the scam Gods that something despicable happens to him very soon.
July 16, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
The last picture made me chuckle, because I’m pretty sure that my grave is right next to yours with VMS, she didn’t sign a contract with her builder before he started because he was her friend.
July 16, 2013 @ 2:18 pm
This just makes me feel better about every stupid thing I’ve done. I approach every Craigslist adventure like one I might not return from as I’ll surely end up dismembered in a basement I am drawn to filled with “90+ years of accumulation that we have never been through…help yourself.” I’m always surprised when people end up being lovely and normal. We ALL have a story like this one where we were scammed or duped – often out of our eagerness to please. Some of us are just not brave enough to admit it and now we all feel a little bit better about ourselves. Thanks for the midday laugh.
Garden, Home and Party
July 16, 2013 @ 2:43 pm
This is hilarious if it weren’t hitting so close to home! When my husband took me to London (first time for me) a well dressed Brit walked up to us and offered to take our picture for us for 6 pounds I totally said that would be great, smiled at the camera and gave him the 6 pounds. As we walked away my husband said, (who I might add didn’t say this while this transaction was going down) “You do realize he didn’t ask for our address and that it was a way some make money off of stupid tourists?” I know, really absent minded. I have to chalk it up to my excitement at being in a foreign country and British accents. 😀
I’m certain I would have done the same thing you did, Victoria.
July 16, 2013 @ 3:23 pm
I stumbled upon your blog today and read four of your posts that more or less described me; however, I’m choosing this one to comment on because it hit home!
I was scammed on Craigslist when about 8 years ago, I posted that I was looking for a mini schnauzer puppy. A woman replied and said she had one and gave me a whole back story on this sweet little pup. We exchanged several emails and even a couple of phone calls organizing when I would meet her to pick up the dog. She even sent me a photo of the mini schnauzer that instantly melted my heart.
Well when I excitedly told my parents about this, they insisted on coming with me to pick up the dog because they instantly had a bad feeling about it. I casually mentioned my parents would be coming with me to the woman who was chatting me away on the phone and finalizing the day, time and location.
The day came and I called to confirm and no response. Then, I emailed – no response. I sent a text – no response. My parents were sitting there in my house with a “I told you so” attitude while at the same time exuding extreme worry for their college educated daughter who didn’t seem to have the street smarts to live outside of a barred up room in their attic.
That evening my mom called me and told me to google mini schnauzer puppy. It was the very first image that came up and I remember shrieking with terror. Ugh. It was a learning experience that I quickly forgot about as I sold my furniture a couple of months later on Craigslist and gave complete strangers my address while I was home alone. Whoops…
Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
July 18, 2013 @ 10:13 am
I am both curious to google that… and also NOT going to, because whatever it is, I DO NOT need stuck in my head.
For what it’s worth, I give out my address too… and am sometimes home alone. It’s always been fine, but I should probably rethink it.
July 16, 2013 @ 3:47 pm
Yeah, this could have been me a few years ago, but with so many of my friends telling me their horror stories about identity theft because they talked to someone who seemed legit on the phone, I don’t trust anyone who calls me anymore.
My husband has to provide dental records along with other credentials just to talk to me on the phone anymore.
July 16, 2013 @ 3:50 pm
You shouldn’t feel too badly. I
July 16, 2013 @ 3:56 pm
[Stupid machine] As I was saying…
You shouldn’t feel too badly, I actually know someone who lost $10k in a bogus investment scheme they found on the web. The thing is, just about any of their friends could have told them it was bogus but they wanted so badly for it to be a lucky windfall that they ignored reality and disregarded their own common sense.
July 16, 2013 @ 4:45 pm
I’m really sorry you were scammed, but this story is hilarious! And I love Paul. “Don’t buy Arkansas.” Perfect. 🙂
BTW the phone screen was certainly smashed to smithereens. Been there, done that.
July 16, 2013 @ 6:42 pm
I snorted…..just sayin….;)
July 16, 2013 @ 7:15 pm
The sheer volume of phone and internet scams has made me more than little skeptical about everything, which is why I love this blog so much. I enjoy the shared innocence and enthusiasm. Having said that, at my work, which involves tax and dealing with the tax office here in Australia I recently had a scam pone call (on a Saturday morning) from a very dodgy sounding person who claimed to be calling from the Tax department. I picked it was a scam – our tax ‘office’ doesn’t make phone calls on the weekend (public service). However, a couple of weeks later we got another call that sounded similar but near enough to legitimate, so I thought I’d play it safe and call the tax office to check it out. They denied all knowledge of said call and immediately reported it to their scam watch. Soon after, the original caller rang back and gave his full credentials and was able to confirm beyond doubt that he was in fact really from the tax office and he was quite amused at being thought of as a ‘scammer’. Wooops! I’m sooo glad he had a sense of humour. I’m the only person I know to have reported the tax office to the tax office!
Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
July 18, 2013 @ 10:01 am
Laughing out loud…
July 16, 2013 @ 11:11 pm
Oh sweet friend… you jumped into that situation with both feet! And that gas cap story… we live in a state where you aren’t allowed to pump your gas yourself (which is a whole other level of WHY?!!) and I’ve never heard of that sort of scam. Crazy!
July 17, 2013 @ 12:13 am
oh, goodness, thanks for the laugh! (although i lived in arkansas for a few years, and i think anything over $50 is a shade too much….) i once dragged my husband to look at a craigslist chair (i always make him go with me so i won’t end up another sad craigslist white-slavery statistic), and i convinced him that i could totally get the chain-smoker smell out of this $150 chair!! the chain-smoker himself said that a little febreze would fix it right up!! after steam-cleaning that darn thing THREE times, it still reeked…. and then i didn’t want to keep it…. but couldn’t list a smoky-stinking chair on craigslist for $150…. i would’ve done better to just hand out cash on the street corner. 🙂
Diana - Anyone Can Decorate
July 17, 2013 @ 12:36 am
It’s a good thing that what comes around goes around. Somehow some way, he will get his in the end… or hopefully sooner!!! I choose the think the best of people… and I probably would have done the same thing. Uhg, it would suck to have to go through life skeptical all the time!
BTW – I want to be you when I grow up 🙂
July 17, 2013 @ 2:25 am
Thank you for your honesty and my not being able to stop laughing and then chuckling for almost 10 minutes! Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. I was my usual, highly anxious flyer self when I arrived at O’Hare airport to prepare for my flight. As I gathered my suitcase and other travel items to go into the terminal, a young man approached me and started talking about his very ill grandmother. He said that he was on his way to see her. I asked if he wanted to pray for her, he said yes, and so we prayed standing on the sidewalk. Then he told me that he was short $30 for his flight. I not only gave him $30 but I threw in an extra $20 so he could get some food for the flight.
As he walked away I realized that my anxiety about flying had caused me to not pay attention to the “red flags” in his story and I was upset with myself. But then I decided that I wasn’t going to fault myself for being willing to help someone; I just needed to remember that when I’m feeling anxious, I am not a good listener and I need to take time to make a decision.
Having said that, I still am chuckling about your story. Love your spirit!