I recently posted my ancient Waverunner for sale on Craigslist. (An event which should not be of interest to you unless you happen to be in the market for such a thing, in which case please contact me immediately!) What is likely of interest is that two people have contacted me whom I’m pretty sure are trying to scam me out of my money.

In both cases, the buyer seemed ready to buy like he’s been looking for one of these for awhile. In fact, both buyers offered premiums above my asking price if I would take down the ads and hold the boat for them. This alone got my radar twinging a bit. I’ve sold a lot of vehicles over the years and I’ve yet to encounter a buyer who won’t try to haggle the price down at least once. Further, these guys just seemed too eager to buy something they’d never seen from someone they’ve never met.

The next weirdness that was that both wanted to send me money immediately. One offered a Money Order while the other promised a Cashier’s Check. All I had to do was provide an address and they would get the money out to me ASAP. That all sounds like a slam dunk. But again, they were willing to send me money with no reasonable guarantee I’d ever get them the boat.

The final nail in the coffin was that both emails contained just a hint of fractured English. It seemed as if neither of these guys were native speakers. That by itself isn’t a big deal, however the number of immigrants looking to buy 20 year old boats in rural northern New York is a pretty limited population. And I had attracted both of them!

All of this inspired a bit of research, and apparently this is becoming a fairly popular Craigslist scam. Had I played along, the buyer would have “accidentally” sent me a check or money order for much more than my asking price. I would deposit the check and the bank would (as a matter of policy) show the amount as being in my account. Now what’s important is that the bank is taking the check on good faith, but has no way to immediately verify its authenticity. A few days to a week later, the bank will find out the check is a forgery and promptly deduct the amount from your account. Meanwhile, the buyer will contact me, explaining their “mistake”, and ask if I would wire them back the difference. Being a good guy, and not yet aware that the check they sent was a fake, I send them the difference. They take off with my money, and curiously I have no real recourse. The only thing I could do is go to the police and issue a warrant for their arrest for passing a bad check. But as they are likely not even in this country, that would be futile.

So like always, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fortunately, I didn’t fall for this. Hopefully you and yours won’t either. Spread the word.

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