WYNNE, AR (WMC) - Scam artists on the social network Craigslist are attempting to steal and launder victims' money through the use of eBay gift cards, according to the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.
"They want to get their payment in a method that's quick and irreversible," bureau President Randy Hutchinson said.
They almost got 17-year-old Devon McKnight of Wynne, Arkansas, and his mother Mary Dawn. The McKnights were shopping for used trucks that were for sale by owner on Craigslist. They found a listing for a 2008 Nissan Titan 5.6 V8. The seller, from Memphis according to the listing, wrote the truck had just over 70,000 miles and "is in mint condition." The ad listed the truck's price at $3,500. The Kelley Blue Book value on the vehicle as described is listed as more than $19,000.
"One of them deals that sounds too good to be true," Devon McKnight said.
He didn't realize just how right he was.
His mom inquired about the truck through the seller's listed email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. "Kelly" answered McKnight's email, saying he was stationed at a military base in Tucson, Arizona. He explained the vehicle was with him, but it could be shipped to the McKnights.
Then he included an eBay payment guarantee invoice. He asked that the entire $3,500 be paid up front--in full--through seven $500 eBay gift cards. "And that was a red flag," Mary Dawn said. "I contacted eBay, and they told me they would never ask someone to do that. It was a scam."
Hutchinson said the bureau is following this latest scam method of payment on the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker.
"They either re-sell the gift cards, or they buy merchandise using them themselves, then they re-sell (the merchandise), and that's how they get their money," he said. "The consumer doesn't get what they paid for, and they're out the money they paid for the gift cards. Even if you give [the scam artist] the number that's on the back of one of the gift cards, they can loot it. It's not just eBay cards, either. They're using Amazon gift cards, iTunes. Historically, it was wire transfers. Then they moved to pre-loaded debit cards. Now they're moving to gift cards," Hutchinson said.
"It's just sickening. It really is," Mary Dawn said. She called out "Kelly" in email about the scam. He replied with an email saying he would "cancel the transaction." He shut down his email address and deleted the Craigslist posting.
Hutchinson noted that eBay, Amazon, and other online retailers who offer proprietary gift cards would never guarantee payment via those cards for items not sold through their respective sites. For example, eBay would never guarantee a proprietary gift card payment for something that wasn't sold on eBay.
ASK ANDY: SIGNS OF A CRAIGSLIST SALES SCAM (contributing source: Skip Press, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Money with Craigslist)
* SELLER REQUIRES SHIPMENT AND/OR ESCROW. The scam artist claims the car is overseas or across the country, and you have to wire the money now to have it shipped or put the payment in escrow.
* SELLER REQUESTS ALL OF THE PURCHASE PRICE UP FRONT, SITE UNSEEN.
* SELLER REFUSES TO SHOW THE ITEM AT A NEUTRAL, PUBLIC PLACE. You should always request to inspect the item in a public place--a retail parking lot, a park, etc.--to ensure your safety. At the very least, the seller should allow you to inspect it in the seller's driveway or street.
* SELLER COULD BE LAUNDERING STOLEN MERCHANDISE. If you're considering a valuable item on Craigslist, ask the seller to send you proof of ownership, like the original receipt or owner's manual. If the seller can't prove ownership, drop it. It could be stolen.
* SELLER IS PUSHING FRAUDULENT HOUSING. The dead give-away on this one is when the seller asks for a rental deposit by wire transfer. It turns out the rental is really a house for sale, and the seller has no connection to it at all. It could be an address lifted straight from a realtor's MLS listing or from a classified ad.