Wednesday, May 14, 2014

If it Sounds too Good to be True ...

... you know how that sentence ends, right?

Tamara is car shopping. Which means I'm car shopping (she's more patient than I am -- there are several vehicles I would have pulled the trigger on by now, but she's the one who has to drive the damn thing every day, so it's her call).

Since we're looking at the low end of the market -- inexpensive "to work and back and around town" vehicles for sale by owner -- we're spending a lot of time on craigslist.

So a couple of hours ago, I see a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle listed. We've been looking at bigger cars because we're a family of four, but the price was so attractive that I thought "hey, we're not planning any long road trips ... if it's in good shape she could drive it for a couple of months while we're looking for the PERFECT deal, then flip it for more than she paid ... if we move fast, go see it and snap it up before anyone else has a chance to get it."

But then I started thinking. There was something strange about the ad, above and beyond the low price (about half of KBB value for even a "fair" car, and this looked like a "clean" vehicle).

Instead of the normal Craigslist contact mechanisms, this one had the email address pasted into the picture of the car. Hmmm.

I punched that email address into Google, and it turned up a total of one result: Another Craigslist listing for the same car, from 1,100 miles away in another city, posted 15 hours before. This time the email address was pasted as text into the listing instead of into a graphic, which is why I found it at all. I bet there are a bunch more out there with the picture-paste address instead of the text-pasted address.

Same description. Same seller email. Same price. Not EXACTLY the same picture, but taken in the same parking lot (one was front view, one was side view). No doubt whatsoever that it's the same car.

So, what's up with that?

Whatever listing you find and respond to, it will turn out that the car is in some other city, crated and awaiting shipment once you schlep down to Western Union and send them the money. Of course, if you are gullible enough to do that, you'll never see your money again and you'll never, ever, ever see the car.

I was born yesterday. But not late yesterday. Watch out for scams, folks. They are out there looking for someone not quite as smart or careful as you.

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