In April, we reported on the Craigslist Killings, in which murderers lured victims to their deaths using the classifieds site. Maybe my tale of barely escaping the jaws of a Craiglist predator won't make national news, but fuck me if it wasn't traumatizing. I almost sent my PlayStation 3 to Nigeria for nothing in return. Horrified yet?
So it all began when I realized that Grand Theft Auto 3, while thrilling for the first couple of weeks, gets a bit stale after the 9,022nd time you set a policeman on fire with a blowtorch. I put my PS3 console on Craigslist -- the site through which I had bought it about a month prior -- along with a couple of games and a Blu-Ray disc of Superman (don't judge me) with a price tag of $350. The listing is here.
I got only one inquiry, from a guy named Clarence King, asking me if I still had the console. It was a bit fishy because he accidentally sent me identical inquiries meant for two other Miami-area sellers of a $600 Toshiba laptop and a $620 Dell laptop. That's a lot of shopping. But whatever, I told myself, he probably just got his stimulus check really late.
(My desperation to think Clarence is legit throughout this story makes more sense when you understand that I really enjoy playing blackjack at Seminole Hard Rock. And have been getting a lot of 16s. And that's all I'll say about that.)
So I tell Clarence I still have it, and within moments he fires back a quite enthusiastic e-mail:
I will like to buy this item so pls do withdraw the advert from
Craigslist. I will also like you to know that i will be paying by
paypal due to the fact that i will not be able to meet up with the cash
and local pick up so you will be shipping it oversea.I will be adding
$150 for the shipping and handling cost... I will need you to provide
me with the Your paypal email address so i can send the money to your
Hmm... overseas. Awful grammar. Offering to pay me $150 more than I asked for. "Sounds good," I tell him, and give him the email address attached to my Paypal account. Nine hours later, I guess this very legit-looking email apparently from "firstname.lastname@example.org":
So I'm not good at screengrabs, but that last line says "This transaction is not fraudulent and you are assured of quality service. We encourage you to ship the item immediately (due to Paypal's policy) as your payment has been confirmed by us. Security is of critical importance at Craigslist." Which doesn't make much sense when you think about it, because is this email from Paypal or Craigslist?
And then there's a line urging me to: "Please do reply to this email. This mailbox is monitored and you will receive a response from our customer care." God, I wish I had taken them up on that just to see what kind of response I might have gotten in return.
Despite these clues, I still might've shipped the PS3 if, in a subsequent email, Clarence's address hadn't raised a few more red flags:
Name: Olatunde Frank
Address: No20,Oba adesida Road
State: Ondo State
Post Code: 23434
Wait, so Clarence's name is Olatunde Frank... and he lives in Nigeria? Hell no, I saw that Chris Hansen special! Next you're going to sell me a wife that never arrives!
Once I figured out Clarence/Olatunde was a scammer, I was planning on luring him into hilarious humiliation like the scambaiters in this amazing NPR feature, which would have made this story a lot better, but I lost control of my fingers and sent him an email reading simply: "Just trying to steal from me, huh? FUCK YOU."
The satisfaction was fleeting, and I haven't heard from him since. And I still have a PS3 to sell in a crap-tastic economy.
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