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.
April 15, 2014 @ 10:38 pm
I am in love with Craigslist. I am constantly finding new things that I MUST have. Maybe not giant mirrors, but retro chairs and chamber pots are definitely up my alley!
May 30, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
You’re funny! If I lived in Philadelphia, I would love to procrastinate with you.
June 18, 2014 @ 7:28 am
LESSON LEARNED ! anyone who asks you to send them money by bank on craiglist is likely a scamer, thanks !
June 22, 2014 @ 2:41 pm
This HI-larious (and very helpful) story found it’s way to Arizona! And no, we’re not for sale! 🙂
Thanks Victoria for sharing this in a way that helps people understand there is no shame in the knee-jerk emotional choice but also shares valuable lesson for caution.
Love using Craigslist as both buyer and seller. I’ve been been annoyed lately how social media is beating them up lately as a place only for scammers. SO not true.
Good lesson, GREAT story, appreciate the opportunity to get my giggle on. Cheers!
June 23, 2014 @ 4:19 pm
Thanks for posting this! I just literally went through the same exact rigmarole, I had lost my ring and bracelet and posted a lost and found ad on craigslist. To my surprise, I got a call today saying he thinks he found it, that some kids sold them to him for $95. He asked me to describe it, and at this point my heart was beating out of my chest, I excitedly described them, and sure enough “yup! that’s it!”. He said he’d check how much shipping would be, and that he’d call me back.
I sat there in anticipation for 10-15 minutes, then the call comes again. $23 to ship it by the fastest means possible, awesome! He says he’s going to send it out today, but that he doesn’t want to get scammed or caught up in any sort of stealing crap, so he asks me to go to western union and wire him the money. At first I was super excited still, yea sure I’ll run right over and send it out! Then something clicks in my head. I cautiously tell him that I was going to just wait until I got it, then I’d send the money right away. I’d even tack on some extra money since I’m so glad he found it. He says no, he doesn’t want to get scammed. Fair enough, I thought. Luckily, I asked one more question, I asked him if he could at least snap a photo of it on his phone or something and send it my way, just to confirm that it was the right ring/bracelet. At this point, he gets kinda angry, saying how now it isn’t worth his time, blah blah blah. I don’t respond immediately, still considering wiring him the money anyways, but then he just hangs up.
That’s when it hit me, this was absolutely a scam attempt. Funny thing is, had he acted a little more rationally, maybe made up something that he didn’t have a camera on his phone or whatever, I probably would have still gone through with it!
July 10, 2014 @ 10:41 am
I got my scammer to admit he was a scammer, but now what?
Well yeah am not denying it
Subject: RE: found CELL PHONE-GRADUATION PRESENT (Bloomsburg)
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2014 22:48:09 -0400
You have been contacting other people on Craigslist doing the same thing to them. You have no intention of helping any of us, you do not have any of our phones, you are something else. Here is my proof… another person who says the same Manny Luis contacted them:
9 hrs ago
Delete | Quick Reply | Actions | View As Plain Text
Yea he emailed me and told me he found my phone and took it with him and left the usa. From the very begining i had a feeling this a scam. He never answers my questions and wont call me or let me call him. Thanks for the heads up, I will be reporting him to the police.
From: manny luis
Sent: 09-Jul-2014 22:06:24 +0000
Subject: RE: found CELL PHONE-GRADUATION PRESENT (Bloomsburg)
Oh My God whao seriously? Do you hsave to write all this you don’t even know me I swear I have a %100 clean conscience of returning the phone and this haven’t changed anything its okay to freak out but you just have to be cool and imagine who is on the other side I don’t take my purse or credit card around on travel that’s impossible, and its because I see its a little kid phone that’s why am trying my best to return I just hope you think about this good day
Subject: Re: found CELL PHONE-GRADUATION PRESENT (Bloomsburg)
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2014 10:11:29 -0400
I already knew her phone was lost. She bought the new one to replace it herself because I was not going to buy it again. It does not show her how to be responsible. I have found many items in my life and gone out of my way to reunite them with the owners because I know how it feels to lose things. I know it is good for my soul to be a better person and throw love out in the world instead of hate.
I would have been more than happy to reimburse you for the postage which is $5 and I would have been more than happy to give you a reward. The fact you have been stringing me along to get to this point, let’s me know that I will never see that phone again. I am fine with that. That phone is useless right now since it is marked lost/stolen. I will pray that you become a better person, but do not reach me again. I do not have any more patience for this game. Good day.
From: manny luis
Sent: Wed, Jul 9, 2014 9:08 am
Subject: RE: found CELL PHONE-GRADUATION PRESENT (Bloomsburg)
I don’t know is there anyway you can send some money maybe?
Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
July 10, 2014 @ 10:46 am
Report him to craigslist! He will have had to give them an email address… At the very least, I would think craigslist could ban his email? (Which should slow him down for about five seconds)
October 25, 2014 @ 6:43 pm
Funny enough, a few days ago I posted an ad about my mom’s purse. She left it on the roof of her car, and drove off on her way to work. I posted an ad on Craigslist describing the purse/wallet, and it’s potential whereabouts. Long story short, the police called us a few hours later, and a good samaritan had turned it in. There was some money missing, and she went ahead and cancelled all her cards anyways.
So, today I received a rather long text from a number in Miami, FL…we live in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Hello. My name is Karissa Meyers I’m a def.Your wallet was found and If you can name whats inside the wallet and where you lost it and described the wallet to me.also provide correct information with your full name and address matching on ID including your email addres.it will be returned Provide your full name on id Your address matching on ID including your email address. Thank you Karissa Meyers.
It’s highly unlikely that another person in this rather small residential area also lost a royal blue purse that came from a bazaar in Sri Lanka, complete with skull designed velcro wallet that looks like it belongs to a 10 year old, as described in the ad (my mom’s a bit “eclectic”). This has got to be an identity theft/reward scam. My ad made no mention of a reward, however I did say that if someone had found it and helped themselves to the $100 in it, then consider that their reward for doing the right thing and returning it. I’m betting this person is looking to tug on heart strings in order for me to volunteer a reward. Obviously, I can’t call her because she’s “deaf” (riiiiiiiiight).
I am now trying to devise a way to make sure this person thinks twice before kicking someone while they are down. There are some real degenerates out there. Called my local PD, and they don’t care (for obvious reasons), and won’t file a report unless I was actually already scammed. Gonna search online for at least somewhere to report this, so that I can rest easy knowing that I did all I could at this point.
January 10, 2015 @ 12:17 pm
Arkansas for $200?
… way, way, overpriced; You’d never get that for it …
February 9, 2015 @ 3:27 pm
I think the same guy is trying to scam us all.
I posted the add looking for my lost camera. I lost it in Miami airport traveling to New Jersey couple days ago.
Today I received the phone call that the guy who introduced himself as Michael Jarwin. 270-317-7909
He said he bought my camera from “the black kid” at the airport. He asked me to describe the camera to him, as well as to describe the pictures. He said that he realized the camera was stolen because there were pictures of white people in the camera. He figured out that I was white because of my Russian accent. Being stupid and naive I was describing pictures to him in great detail. He confirmed that it was camera. I said that I would pay him the money that he paid for the camera and more. He replied something like: “Don’t worry, I will make sure that you pay me”. That is when it hit me. I asked him to describe what else was in the case, he mumbled, like I see in many comments here, and said that he had no time for this, and hung up the phone. I called him back with no answer.I texted him asking to call me back. He did call back a few minutes later and said that the was talking to his wife about this… I stopped and asked him if there was a picture of my grandma, an old lady sitting in the chair (This picture wasn’t were. I just made it up). He said: “Yes, there is a picture of an old lady sitting on the chair”. That’s when I realized that my gut feeling did not fail me. He also said that he was from Illinois. I think he purposely calls people with out-of-state numbers to tell them that he is in another state, so no one can actually meet him in person. By the way, his phone is registered in Kentucky.
Please be careful. Beware of this scam artist. Good luck to all of you finding your lost items!
February 11, 2015 @ 10:04 am
Oh no, you do NOT get the crown and scepter for ‘Queen of the Scammed’! That would be me…and actually my husband as well. In 2005 my husband found a car on craigslist for my son. The seller wanted 3,700. Wired. My husband instructed me to wire the cash. I wired the cash. The FBI called the store that wired the cash. The clerk handed me the phone. FBI cancelled my transaction….thank gOd! Lesson? Learned and inscribed on my forearm.
September 2, 2015 @ 6:06 pm
Next time, before to make any transaction Read This : https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/574148 ( Inside Hackerville: Learn How To Buy and Sell SAFELY ) and will see how a scammer make the “real transaction” . Take care! 100% Truh, No Lies !
December 1, 2015 @ 5:27 pm
I was scammed by a man name Rick Lane, who said he worked for Shadow shoppers. This is a place I registered with, they said he didn’t work for them. This person had my email address, so I thought it was true work. I was fooled, but I’m still wondering how he pulled up my info, from Shadow shoppers.
December 19, 2015 @ 1:39 pm
You may not see this comment, but I somehow stumbled on your website. It is no exaggeration to say that I am in tears laughing at this story. Not at you, but your delivery. You are hilarious! I was drawn in by your Christmas-bow story and was ‘lol-ing’ pretty hard. But this, literally tears.
May 20, 2016 @ 10:17 am
So I’ve been going back and reading your entire blog from the beginning, and I just have to say – I love you so much. Which is probably a super weird and inappropriate thing to say to someone you don’t even know, but it’s true. And this post? Perfection. Thank you for sharing it, you may have actually saved me from being scammed in the same way some day.
July 29, 2016 @ 9:07 am
If a person scammed YOU. You are not the one who should spent one second feeling bad. THE SCUMBAG cheater should feel bad. Who wants to go around shouting: I LIE AND CHEAT people for a living and they deserve it because the world owes me something for being stupid. YOU did nothing wrong. NOTHING. We are taught to be MORAL and follow rules. We are also taught, as we move up in life, to be gracious and trusting, without these two qualities, a human being cannot exist in the world. If some EVIL THIEF chooses to go around demeaning other human beings that is their own punishment, and yes, I do think they should be punished, and they are punished. YOU are a good person. That is it’s own reward in many many ways. How we choose to live with other humans on this earth is life itself. I hope that guys money he cheated you out of brings him nothing but shame and self-disgust.
August 16, 2016 @ 4:44 pm
So… I recently lost a bracelet … very sentimental, semi-expensive. I put an ad on Craigslist and in the newspaper … with “Reward”. I live in Arkansas.. I received a call from, of all places, Bowling Green, KY. Guy said he was visiting here and he thinks he has my bracelet (a guy on the street sold it to him). He says he is currently at work, but when he gets home he will have his wife send me a photo. Interesting. He just called back and asked me about the reward … I told him I’d take care of it when I see him. What?! I said .. “yep, it means so much to me, I’ll make the drive and pick it up this weekend in person” … he is going to ask his wife if they will be home this weekend and get back with me 🙂 Maybe he should google my phone number and see that I’m a PI …. with LOTS of Policeman friends. If he is scamming me … I’ll make him feel it, or at least get slightly uncomfortable.
September 15, 2016 @ 5:57 am
OMG! This post made me snort… and kept me from falling asleep at 4am… bless you!
September 29, 2016 @ 9:01 pm
Yeah this exact same thing, most likely person did this to me yesterday, except he found my wedding ring… and I sent him $300. I wish I would have see this sooner! I feel like a complete idiot.
January 31, 2018 @ 4:46 pm
I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer but just be thankful all that happened was that you lost $200. I’ve loved reading your posts for a few years and like you I enjoy the thrill of the hunt on Craigslist or at least I used too… lately I’m a lil more edgy about selling or buying items online. A few months back a student in one of my classes was murdered trying to buy a laptop. He met the person in a public area yet it didn’t end well. I really don’t want to think about the number of times I’ve entered someone’s house to buy something (usually furniture). Even though I’m usually accompanied when I go meet someone and conduct my best due diligence before hand, bottom line you never really know who’s going to be on the other end of that transaction. The only reason I mention this is for everyone to enjoy Craigslist’s list, Offer up etc but to be very careful in the process. No material possession is worth your life or that of a loved one.
March 14, 2018 @ 11:43 am
Carlos Ian From Canovanas Puerto Rico Who Owns the Carlos Ian Events LLC is SCAMMER!This business does not operate on ethical business practices and I have already filed a very detailed complaint with the BBB. Do NOT recommend anyone do business with them.