Enter my tale of Craigslist woe.
Full disclosure: I'm a bit of a Craigslist n00b. That being said, I keep a healthy amount of skepticism about any and all purchases and won't send jack diddly squat until I have money in my hand—which is preferably handed off in a very public spot in case you're a psycho.
Most of my Craigslist transactions up until now have been fairly trouble-free, if not downright pleasant. Heck, the buyer of my old autocross helmet even sent pics of how it saved his noggin when he fell off his bike. People—for the most part—are rather good.
Except this guy. This one fellow who emailed me about my 924 rims.
As much as I love both Porsche's phone dial rims as well as free spares for the racecar (...especially spares for the racecar), these 924 rims just weren't the right offset for the 944 without having to perform some special acts of spacer-fu. Onto Craigslist they went.
A few days later—hark! A nibble!
**Disclaimer: I don't always post contact information on the internet, but when I do...it's a fake Google Voice number and the guy's a scammer anyway.
He appeared to be rather eager—even emailing me from another address (I think). "James Cameron?" Eh, maybe it's a middle name and he was Michael Bolton'd with the famous director's name.
ASAP? That's my kind of timeline, dude. I quickly text him with the final price.
"Consider it sold?" Yeah, no. Not until I have money in my purse. Dream on, delusional one.
I promptly responded back with an address to send payment to and told him that I'd hold on to them for a week—but the listing would stay up until I received the payment. You know, just in case.
Furthermore, since he'd be letting a mover pick these up, I asked for the contact information of the mover (or whoever was coming to fetch the wheels) so I could schedule a pick-up date. Oh, and so I could make sure this wasn't some random scammer off of the internets. You know, little things like that.
No information on the movers was given, but if a check was in the mail, I didn't care who was ultimately picking them up. Send Sasquatch for all I care. Besides, I figured that he could be working out the details at this point. All I care about is money.
(Hook, line, sinker, yeah, yeah—NOW I know.)
His responses, though, seemed rather...complicated. Meh.
He was still very adamant about me pulling my ad at this point. Hell no. It should have lit up a red flag that a guy was complaining about scammers and not taking me seriously when I said that I do not pull an ad down until I physically receive moolah. A cleared check, money order, PayPal, dolla dolla billz y0, I don't care. Show me the money or you're wasting my time.
Everyone knows "that guy" with reading comprehension issues, though, right? Maybe this dude is just dumb and can't figure out what I'm saying about how I run my Craigslist ads or even the very public location where I'd like to meet. You know what? I'll give this a shot as long as he comes through with the cash. Dumb guys' money spends just as well as smart guys' money!
Well, if I had ever seen money, that is. I got two weeks of lame excuses like this:
Guess what? Payment wasn't delivered Monday. And who the heck is Todd? I guess Todd must be some other poor schmuck dealing with this nonsense, too. Poor Todd.
So, I send The Flakiest Buyer in the Universe a reminder:
Hi! It is Tuesday and I still have not received payment. I can only store these for a limited time where they are and really need to send them along ASAP. When did you send it and where is it coming from? Do we need to make a lost package inquiry with the USPS?
All of these are perfectly reasonable questions if as long as you are not trying to pull something shady. I know I would have appreciated the help looking into a lost package if I had sent a large chunk of money through the mail.
This guy operates at strange hours. 3:37 a.m.? The this-might-be-the-same-guy-but-I-don't-know email mentioned being in the military—maybe he's stationed in .de?
Either way, I don't care how sick you are, who died, where you live or any of that mess—I want your money. It's not that hard to write a check, put it in an envelope and send it along. Stop whining. If you don't have the money, admit it already and GET OUT. When you don't have money, you can't buy things. That's how life works.
I would have even accepted "I am broke and I have to wait until I get paid on the 15th" as an excuse over the dreck he was texting over. At least that would have seemed honest.
Granted, no one else had nibbled on the ad, so the wheels were being saved for him regardless of how long he procrastinated. Then again, there really isn't a huge market for 15" 924 rims—even the cool ones. I suppose this is why an out-of-state or even out-of-country buyer seemed perfectly reasonable to me.
Regardless, they're in my space and they don't really fit my car. I want them gone.
This morning, I decided to text and ask one last time about that tracking number, only to find that "James" switched phone numbers. By the way, this one's (412) 475-9376 just in case you have a bathroom wall that needs defacing with a fake-o Google Voice number.
"Directives?" "Transaction?" This all sounds very...CIA. Not the real CIA, but a cheesy fake version played out by Nigerian scam actors.
So, I'm lacking information and expecting a large check. Lulz ensue.
All of this runaround was starting to make my head spin. How could anyone be this stupid? An address is an address, not just a name and city. So, when all else fails...Google it.
Sure enough, Ken Jones is the name of a real moving company...in Houston. Not Mesquite. When I gave Ken Jones a call, they said they didn't have a branch in Mesquite, either.
So, I texted back for more information. Maybe this is just a random guy—not a business? Given the buyer's low comprehension of the English language, I was sure to spell out exactly what I meant when I asked for an address:
I'm still missing an address *within* Mesquite, TX to send it to. Street number and street name, or PO Box, possibly suite/apt. number, too. Google does not bring up a Kenneth Jones in Mesquite. Does the mover have a phone number?
Oddly enough, there was a check waiting for me when I got home today...for $1,980, from the address of a lady in Westerville, OH. Curiosity = piqued.
The check inside was made out to me from MCR Federal. Googling the company on the check brought up a real company that apparently works with a lot of government contracts, which fit the military persona of Scammy McScammerpants.
Still, that would have been $1,380 shipping for a $600 set of wheels that costs, what, $300 to ship on a bad day? This couldn't possibly be right.
In comparison, moving 700 square feet worth of my junk halfway across Texas was $1,500ish. Maybe he included enough money for me to pay for his entire move?
So, I googled the lady's name and address on the envelope. Sure enough, that was a real house in a nice enough neighborhood befitting of some guy who might have a 924. I gave this the benefit of the doubt.
**Disclaimer: I won't include the Ohio lady's name or address here, as I believe that USPS online shipping account may have been scammed as well. I may send her a nice postcard from Austin with a link to this page as an FYI, though.
Given that there was another "James" who inquired about the Boxster wheels I had listed a few days ago, I asked if the amount could possibly be for both wheels. Nope! And boy, does this guy not like to give out any info whatsoever. More lulz ensue.
This is the most unintelligible Craigslist buyer...in the world.
At this point, I'm really just poking this guy with a stick to see how far he can go without giving me any real information.
Whoever I'm texting really likes the word "they," too. I can only assume he's dealing with...
All nameless pronouns aside, he finally gives me an email address and a street address to check out. Only the email isn't anyone named Kenneth Jones and the street address is nowhere that exists in Mesquite, TX.
Oh, I'm giving you a headache now, Shadiest of the Shady? Good. I wanted my money three weeks ago and made the n00b mistake of ordering more parts for the racecar before these wheels sold.
Coco. Not. Happy.
The next n00b mistake I made? Figuring that if the bank actually cashed this check, it had to be legit. Oh, readers...don't do this. Don't ever do this. If it smells fishier than a salmon farm when you open the envelope, just send it back. Tape it up, return to sender, no, no, no.
I refused to put it into my bank account, though, so with far too much cash in a little envelope, I went off to figure out where exactly to send the $1,380 in extra funds.
I sent an email to Kevin Flow, who was...Kevin Flow, not Kenneth Jones. No matter—his response was just as confusing and worthless as James Brewer's:
So, I tried calling the phone number given. No one answered, so I left a message. They called back, but hung up before I could answer hello. So, then I tried both of the other numbers. The (414) number picked up briefly, but was extremely scratchy and hung up in my ear. So much for a friendly transaction.
Every time I reached a voicemail box, I found out that they were Google Voice numbers. Not only are they not giving me any information about themselves, they're giving me fake phone numbers, too. Great.
Fake James kept harping on money grams, money grams, money grams. I, not having ever dealt with scammers, don't know what the heck this is until he texts over an address. Why the heck would he not want to just get a money order? Oh—that's right. It's a SCAM.
At this point, I'm just going to walk in to this nebulous "money gram" location for the lulz and ask if they can send anything with just a name and city. Guess what? Nope!
They were also kind enough to let me know that this is a common scam.
Meanwhile, Scammy McTexter was getting more and more irate because I was asking so many questions that he wouldn't answer.
The "money gram" location was one of those shady cash-a-check joints just off the Drag near UT, and fortunately for me, there was an Austin police officer just chillin' in his car in front of that little strip of stores.
So, I asked him—what the heck is this nonsense and do I have anything to worry about since this yahoo has my mailing address?
Sure enough, this was a Craigslist fraud scam that apparently everyone in Austin knew about...except me. Guy buys widget from Craigslist, sends too much money and claims it's for "movers," check usually bounces because it's stolen or fake, and the perp gets away with the money (and sometimes the widget if the seller is dumb enough to send it) scot-free because they're completely out of the transaction. Oh, and the seller gets hit for the amount of the bounced check.
This "stolen or fake" part meant that I went back to the bank as quickly as I could, let them know of the situation, and let the former potential buyer know that he shouldn't expect his "money gram" anytime soon:
Hi—I am not comfortable with this. I am sending your check back to the address on the envelope.
After checking with the bank and discovering that the check had already been sent, however, it looks like I couldn't just hand back the cash and get the stupid shady check back—I had to wait for it to actually bounce. So, I sent Fake James an update:
The bank let me know that there is an issue with the check and they need to wait for it to clear. That will be a two-week wait. I'm sorry.
J/K, I'm not sorry. But lo and behold, I haven't gotten any irate, poorly written texts asking about "transactions" or sending money to a person without an address since I sent him that.
Out of curiosity, I ran the tracking information that was on that Ohio lady's shipping label. Behold! The perp lives in Jalopnik's favorite state:
If anyone knows how to find out exactly who this scammer is, there's a company in Virginia who probably wants their $1,980 back.
So, I guess my wheels are still for sale. I never saw any legitimate money, so I never pulled the Craigslist ad.
If you're in need of some spiffy phone dial rims or feel like sponsoring a broker-than-expected ChumpCar team, let me know.
Oh, and don't cash any ridiculously large amounts paid for Craigslist items. I'm stuck waiting up to two weeks for the check to officially bounce, and then I will likely have to contact the manager at my bank to waive the returned check fee. That sucks. Don't do it.