BBB: Craigslist scammers now using third-party companies to take money

06/20/2014 8:40 AM

06/20/2014 8:41 AM

Consumers who are looking for great deals on big-ticket items sometimes have luck on Craigslist.

But there are instances when the opposite is true. Recent accounts have prompted the Better Business Bureau to warn consumers about a Craigslist scam that many have fallen for.

The hook that scammers use to reel in their victims is often a low price. But the price on that car, camper or boat may not be too far below what others are asking for similar items.

Because these crooks have learned that extremely low prices have begun to be seen as a red flag for a scam, they have learned to offer items “for sale” with prices only slightly below the average.

If you are like many, the ad catches your eye and you find yourself thinking about plausible reasons why a person might try to sell something at a lower-than-normal price. Maybe they are really hard up for some money. Maybe they are just trying to undercut the other sellers slightly in order to gain the sale.

It makes sense to you so you take the bait and contact the seller. Once they have a potential victim “on the line,” they will tell their tale. It’s usually a sad one.

Perhaps a family member has died and left the item with the seller. Another frequent story is that someone has been deployed with the military and must quickly sell an item. Sometimes they claim that there is a medical emergency and they are trying to raise funds.

This is the point in the scam when the skills of experienced scammers can come into play. They know human nature and they have learned what works and what does not.

They’ve made the initial appeal to your pocketbook and now they are pulling at your emotions. Their hope is that you are sufficiently blinded to their true motives so that you are ready to chomp down on the bait. Then they can set the hook and reel you in.

One recent scenario is this one:

The seller informs you at this point that they have employed a third party to receive your funds. They may go so far as to say this is a way of giving you assurance that the deal is on the up-and-up. They will claim that this actually reduces your risk of fraud.

As of late, the scam company of preference is one called Easy Yard Sale. Supposedly this third-party escrow company will ship the item to you after you have made payment. That payment is requested to be through a money wire transfer. Sometimes a prepaid card like Green Dot is cited as the preference.

Easy Yard Sale has proven to be a scam. Those who send it money receive nothing in return. Calls made to the company go unanswered.

Because this particular company has now been exposed by the BBB, rest assured that others will spring up to replace it. Be aware that legitimate-appearing websites are easy to fake along with positive reviews and convincing looking graphics.

Some advice for purchasing from Craigslist:

• Whenever possible meet the seller and see the merchandise that is being offered.
• Refuse to use a third-party company if a seller wants you to. Either buy directly from the seller or do not do the deal.
• Never wire money or use a pre-paid card to make a payment. If you are the victim of a scam under these circumstances, you cannot get your money back.

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