Julie Evans of Bloomington recently found a fantastic deal on a Yamaha 23-ft. SX230 boat and trailer. Only $1,500 for both, the Craigslist offer said.
It was too good to be true. It was a scam. A lot of people fall for Craigslist scams. We all want a great deal to brag about.
Unfortunately, scam artists must also be bragging about how easy it is to get people to part with hard earned cash.
How do scammers do it? What buttons do they know to press (besides everyone’s desire to get something for practically nothing)?
Dan Hendrickson, communications manager at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, looked at the email exchange between Evans and the boat scam artist. In the exchange, Evans wanted to verify the price ($1,500) and talk to the seller directly. Here’s how the seller responded:
“I have dropped the price at $1500 with trailer including also (including delivery to your home address) because recently after the divorce I own this boat and I don't need it. I need to sell the boat before 30th May, when I will be leaving the country for a year on military duty along with my medical team. I do not want to store it and lose more because of devaluation. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you!”
In a further exchange the scammer explained why the boat couldn't be seen in person: “I have the clear title and the bill of sale. All the paperwork notarized by a legal attorney are ready to be transferred under new owner's name. I also want to let you know that the price is firm, non-negotiable $1,500.00. Right now I'm at Fargo, ND doing a special training and getting ready for my deployment to Syria.
"The boat is already at the eBay warehouse, in Fargo, ND, sealed and ready to be delivered to your place in 2-3 days. The transaction will be done ONLY through eBay. They will handle the shipping, the payment and the paper exchange. By dealing through eBay, we are both covered 100% and nothing wrong can happen with my boat or your money. You will benefit of free delivery (3 days top) and a 5 day period to test, inspect and accept the boat. Your money will stay in your possession and you won't release any payment to eBay until you inspect and accept the boat.
"If you're interested, please reply with your full name, shipping address with zip code and the best phone # where you can be reached at. I will forward your details to eBay and they will contact you with more info on how to purchase it and how to make the payment. Also if you are interested I can give you my ex-husband's number and call him and ask more information.”
Hendrickson, who has seen and heard of many scams at the Better Business Bureau, complimented the scammer. “The divorce is a nice touch,” he said.
The scammer checked off many boxes that should be red flags, such as awkward phrasing, mention of military service, and a ridiculously low price ($1,500 for the boat AND trailer). “This one is actually fairly well-done,” he said. “They don’t overplay their hand and they create a story that’s just plausible enough to pass the initial sniff test.”
Sometimes, a scammer may be advertising a boat or a camper, but they really want to steal your identity. Here’s an example.
Evans did not fall for the $1,500 boat-and-trailer scam, which has been deleted from Craigslist, or the $2,200 Jayco Jay Feather camper scam that’s also a common way to get people to part with their money, but she wanted to share her experience. "It might help someone else avoid being scammed," she said.