Buying or selling a car on Craigslist?
When it comes to buying a car, many of us head to our local Craigslist. There we search high and low, trying to sniff out the perfect lower-mileage good-in-all-weather runabout -- and then we see it. It's a few years old, under 50k on the odometer, and from all the photos still looks like it could be parked in the showroom and nobody would question it. It's also priced much lower than other postings, which elicits you to email the person, and pretty soon you receive a response. It's in broken English -- and not like your normal typo here and there. It's got some serious issues. Still, the prospect of getting the deal of the century causes you to go on believing their story -- that they're actually a member of the United States Armed Forces and that's why they've left the car at some "shipping depot" and why you need to wire money/use PayPal to get the funds overseas. Now this is probably one of the more common Craigslist scams out there, but apparently they're getting more inventive. A few articles featured in the gear head go-to magazine Jalopnik
point to bot-generated Craigslist bait, which is easily distinguishable by characters randomly appearing in the titles and odd copy generation. One ad they reference even has the vehicle's coefficient of drag listed and "pathetic CD" written right below that. You never know if people are actually getting caught in these things and sending money, which makes me think that it's more of a data grab. [gallery ids="21138,21140"] The other example they point to is much more troubling, and it's a scam focused on duping the seller of the car -- not the buyer. Last December, Jason Torchinsky wrote a piece in the publication about his experience with a shady buyer and their modus operandi. As it turns out, Torchinsky had helped his mother get a 1957 Edition Fiat 500 and, like a lot of good sons, was also helping with the sale of her Passat. That's when he listed the VW and soon got a text from a guy named Davis asking if the car was still available. Torchinsky entertained the questions, but noticed things getting fishy when the buyer started asking if he accepted PayPal.
Aside from the appalling space/punctuation usage, it’s fairly normal seeming. Well, except for the PayPal part, which I’ve never used for a Craigslist transaction. I’ve used PayPal plenty for eBay and other payments, so I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of a PayPal payment, really."
Then it got really odd. Apparently, Davis told Torchinsky that he lived in New Jersey (Torchinsky was in North Carolina) and expressed lots of interest in the car. Then he suggested that he'd handle the PayPal payment and a buyer's agent would come retrieve the car. He couldn't figure out why some guy from "the Garden State" was so interested in a $3,000 VW Passat -- it's not like it's a VW Karmann Ghia convertible. When Torchinsky asked him if he really wanted to buy the car unseen, Davis's only response was "9Agent." So Torchinsky did what anyone should do and told the guy to call him. But by now I'm sure you can picture how that went.
The phone call was possibly the most unintelligible call I’ve ever had. I’m not sure I understood a single word. It was the most garbled, worst-connection call I’ve been on that didn’t just disconnect out of technical shame. I could tell there was a person talking, mostly, but that’s about it."
Torchinsky, being a "glass half-full" kind of guy, decided to add some stipulations -- just to have a little fun with it all. Beyond joking that the car caught on fire and that he'd check his email when it was put out, he alerted Davis that the car had a GPS tracker (though it didn't), and that he wanted to meet the "agent" in the local PD's parking lot. Davis was okay with everything until Torchinsky asked for a photo of his driver's license. Then that's when everything went quiet.
So what exactly was Davis trying to pull here? The trick works like this: the perp (or in this case, Davis) says he's going to pay using PayPal and that, when he does, the transaction will need time to process (or some will say it's an invisible transaction so you won't see the money right away). Then, upon picking up the car, the perp sends an official-looking email to you, making you think that you've been paid, and if you've handed over the keys they drive off with your car. Of course, it's not much better to be in an unfamiliar neighborhood with $10,000 in your pocket anyway. But I guess that's why dealers exist! So whatever way you choose to purchase your next car, just be sharp! What are your thoughts, people? Have you had anybody on Denver Craigslist try to clean your pockets? Let us know in the comments below!