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Forgive the distraction…I couldn’t help it.  I get frustrated when I see these things in the world I live (interwebs).

My wife and I were in the market for a truck.  We decided on a particular model and started watching local Craigslist postings.  One came across our eyes that we simply couldn’t believe…it was a recent model truck with 24K miles and was listed for less than half of what others were listing.  Both of us knew either one of two things happened: 1) major typo in the guys listing or 2) scam.  But just in case we wanted to clarify.  There was no phone number/name listed (scam alert 1), so we used the craigslist email.  Here’s the listing in question:

Craigslist Scam Listing

Now, granted this isn’t really even the style we were looking for (pimped out rims, lowered), but if it was legit then we’d be able to turn a profit maybe :-).  We knew it wasn’t though.  Below is the email I sent:

Okay, what's the catch? a 24K miles 2005 loaded for $10,000?! Salvage title?
If not, does it have tow package with brake controller in cab?  what is a disability package?

Then we got a reply:

Subject: Re: ford f-150 supercrew - $10200 (phoenix)
From: "Hickman Bobby, Tech Sgt." [email protected]


Thank you for your interest in my car.This is a 2005 FORD F150 SUPERCREW
4x4, 8 Cylinder 5.4 Liter, Gasoline engine,Automatic
Transmission,Non-Smoker,clean title!! The car has only 24,000 miles on
it,VIN# is : 1FTPW14515FB48400 .

Here you can find more pictures of the car:
(if the above link does not work copy and paste it into a new web browser

The car has been well taken care of, always kept in the garage.Flawless
exterior/interior condition,no scratches and no dents.It has never been
involved in an accident.The engine starts and drives like new and the paint
looks great.It comes with US clear title which will be signed and notorized
in the buyer's name.Have all keys and manuals.

I'm an US Air Force Tech. Sgt. currently stationed in Germany.The car is
here with me. It was bought in the US and shipped to Europe, but it was
never permanently registered here, the car is still registered in the US.The
car is for sale locally as well, but there are slim chances of this to
happen. In order to be able to register this car here in Germany the buyer
would have to pay very high import/custom taxes that will double the price.
So I decided to sell the car back in the US.

The price is $10,200.00 including shipping from Germany to the US and
delivery to your home address.

So if you decide to buy this car or need further information please get back
to me as soon as possible.

Thank you
Tech.Sgt.Bobby Hickman

Hmm, US military (scam alert 2 – playing off patriotism), car is overseas (scam alert 3), still registered in US (scam alert 4), and cost includes shipping back to US (scam alert 5).  At this point we’re at defcon 4 with scam alert.  We chuckled and continued our search.  But remembering how much fun I had reading Ebola Monkey Man (NSFW) I decided to have some fun.  I mean, this person wasted my time, why can’t I waste his right? :-).  Since the posting had a note about ‘disability equipped’ I further inquired:

Can you send me pictures of the disability access package you have?

To which he responded:

The car is in excellent condition,no mechanical or electrical problems.It drives very very smooth.

I will have the car shipped from Germany by an US Air Force cargo plane so there won't be any additional shipping costs. Also I will arrange for a truck to transport the car to your home address or, if you like, you can pick it up from the nearest airport in your area. The shipping will take 6-8 days, depending on your location.Shipping will be door to door,to your home address,somebody must be home when the car arrives to sign for the reception.The car will arrive with all the papers and documents required for registration and the keys. The clear title and the bill of sale will be already signed by me.

The payment will be done through eBay.You will send the money to eBay and as soon as the payment is confirmed they will notify me to proceed with the shipping. I will ship the car, you will receive it and you will have 5 days for inspection, both the car and the paperwork and the option to accept or reject the car.The inspection time period will begin as soon as you sign for receiving the car at your requested address.During all this time eBay will hold the money into a trust account.So, this is not a blind transaction,you can see the car before decided to buy it.If you are satisfied with the car and decide to keep it you inform eBay about this and they will release the money to me. If the car is not as advertised and decide not to keep it eBay will refund you the money, no questions asked, and shipping back the car will be my concern. I think this is more than fair for the both of us.Please take in to consideration that I will get paid only after you receive the car and make sure everything is as agreed.

If you agree with these terms and you have the money, send me your full name and the address where you want the car to be delivered to and I will initiate the transaction with eBay. You will receive all the transaction details from them.

I will appreciate an answer as soon as possible.

Thank you

I’m loving the start of this because he’s ignoring my inquiry.  Oh, and ebay…we’re now at defcon 6 people.  But of course I kept it going:

Can you please send me pictures of the disability package that you listed in your listing?
Also, where is the vehicle currently registered?  In which state in the US?

Quick response this time (perhaps only an hour):

The car does not have any disability .It is fully equipped.

Hmm, he doesn’t get it, okay, time to have more fun.

Thanks for the quick reply Bobby.

Your listing says "disability equipped" in the description.  I'm trying to understand what that is.  I'm assuming it means something to do with equipment that allows for a wheelchaired person to drive it easily and it stores the chair automatically in the truck bed.  I'm not disabled, but I am thinking this might be cool in case someone with a wheelchair needs to borrow my new truck for some reason.  Can you help explain to me what this means?

This sounds like a great deal and my wife and I are excited.  Do you have any pictures of the radio area?  I love music and want to make sure the radio is a good one.  That's important to me.

For the sale, can I use something other than eBay?  Isn't that for auctions only?  Sorry for the question, but I've only used eBay when looking for vintage train parts for my Lionel set.

Thanks in advance for the reply and information!

And I mean the above in no offense to anyone disabled.  Clearly this is a scam and he took the listing from someone else.  Here’s the reply from the latest:

The car does not have any disability!!!!!!!!!!

Now I’m laughing because he doesn’t even read his own listing.  My follow-up:

Hi Bobby,

I know there is no disability, but in your listing you have a feature (next to power windows, etc.) that the vehicle is "disability equipped" -- is that incorrect and there is no disability equipment feature (like a wheelchair life)?  I've decided if there was I wouldn't want it.

Thanks for the fast reply.  I'm eager to start the transaction -- you didn't say anything about eBay either.  Can't we use some other service that doesn't charge me money?


This is too great.  After a while more, here’s his response.

The payment will be made through eBay. I'm under Contract with eBay which states that we can close the deal using their service.Very Important, Only after you will receive the car, eBay will release the money to me.

The money will be sent per ebay instruction and you will give the payment details only to eBay. They will verify the payment and when the money are confirmed they will notify me to proceed with the shipping process. After you receive and see that the car is the one you want, you just notify eBay to give me the money.

In order to start the deal I need YOUR FULL NAME and SHIPPING ADDRESS so I can register the transaction with eBay. They will let you know what you have to do for the payment.


Um yeah, you still haven’t answered my questions.  Now I’m getting frustrated :-)


With respect, you still haven't answered my questions.  Your listing talks about 'disability equipped' and you haven't explained that.  Also, you haven't answered where it is registered in the US so I can make sure I can transfer the title.

I'm eager to begin the transaction, but you aren't answering my questions about the car.  Does it have a full size spare tire?

After a day on this one, I think the scammer had some help – here’s a reply with my answers.  Now keep in mind, I’m Tim and he’s Bobby yet this was a reply sent to me (the italics parts were in a different collor as well…cut and paste):

Hi Bobby,

Is a misprint.The car is in excellent condition,no mechanical or electrical problems.The car is registered in UT.

Send me your full name and the address where you want the car to be delivered to and I will initiate the transaction with eBay. You will receive all the transaction details from them.

I will appreciate an answer as soon as possible

Dude, if you are scamming…get your folks right.  I often wonder if scammers learn from others?  All you have to do is read Ebola Monkey Man and you could be a better scammer I suppose.  I proceeded to reply with a fake address with Nick Burns as the name to receive it and a totally made up address in Arizona.  After a bit, the scammer replied:

I got your info and I will initiate the transaction through ebay,they will let you know what you have to do for the payment.Get back to me as soon as you receive their invoice.You should hear from them within 24 hours

It’s amazing to me that despite the obvious risk here that some people actually fall for this.  In fact, Craigslist puts up a giant banner that specifically warns on this:

Craigslist scam warning

In the meantime, I set up a different GMail account and sent the scammer (via the craigslist email) a note asking if the truck was for sale.  Within a day I got the EXACT reply as the first time I inquired with my real identity.  I mean, c’mon who would respond to an email that was ‘[email protected]’ – seriously!  In the meantime I hadn’t heard back from the ebay transaction and I responded with:

I haven’t heard anything yet and am eager to complete this sale.  Please don’t tell me you sold the truck :-(

Yes, I included the emoticon for sincerity.  The scammer responded that I should check my spam folder for information from eBay (ooh, the irony in that statement).  I assured him nothing was there and to start it over.  I instantly see this in my inbox from [email protected] (which is hilarious…go visit that site…um Google Sites…nice—I totally trust you, where do I send my money?! lol):

Craigslist Scam eBay Invoice

Like the name I provided?  And the address?  There is no Bartsville, AZ…and 85003 is somewhere downtown Phoenix I’m sure…holy crud man, take a moment to verify!  Oh and I’m buying from Bobby Hickman, but the account holder is Harrison Macpherson!?!?

Craigslist eBay Scam Invoice 2

Further investigation of the “central fax number” reveals so many other scams happening like this one also claiming to be a US Army person.  This is unbelievable.  Seriously…there are no more defcon levels left to reach…we’ve hit scam meltdown at this point.  What amazes me is that people fall for this.  There are so many signs of wrong, deceit, lameness going on that I really do feel sorry for people who think these are legit! 

I decided to see if I can pull an Ebola Monkey Man style picture out of this scam and send the scammer this note:

My wife is very nervous about this transaction through ebay and wants to be assured the truck is still in good condition.  She wants a recent picture of the truck, with someone standing in front of it (perhaps you in your uniform?) holding a sign with the current date.  That will make her more comfortable sending the money through ebay.  Can you send us that picture?

I tried to convince her everything was fine, but she insists.  She's a little crazy I think, but she has the money as I'm not really employed and just play computer games all day long anyway, so I have to listen to what she says.


In the meantime, over in ‘anonymous mailbox’ land, the scammer continues sending the same email about shipping via US Air Force, etc., etc.  Seriously…I am just laughing that in the inbox of the scammer these messages are showing up from “Anonymous Mailbox” as the person.  Unbelievable. 

At this point, I have decided I don’t have any more time to waste on the guy and shot of a note to the trusting “Sgt” informing him of the fact that I believe it to be a scam based on, well, everything.  Oh well, it was interesting to see this dialog and sad to know that it is successful with some folks at times.

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I wish to tell you a story.  A while back I purchased a Nokia E71 mobile phone.  It’s one of the latest from Nokia and has been given rave reviews for a smart phone.  I ultimately didn’t like it as it wasn’t for me.  After a few weeks, I listed it on eBay as I’ve done approximately 100 times before with other items around the house.  Now the item sold quickly and sold for roughly USD $490.  I demand in my eBay listings that the buyers use PayPal and that they have a verified PayPal account and a verified PayPal address.  I figure this is the safest route for both parties.

The transaction was completed as it was many times before.  I received the funds in my PayPal account, got the notice, and promptly used the PayPal UPS shipping service to print a label and have the shipping fees deducted from my account.  The process took about < 5 minutes and I was happy…again, as I’ve been many times before…never an issue.  Remember this was a $400+ item and in a category that usually has a lot of fraud (electronics).  This was 29 NOV 2008 when this all happened.  Transaction complete, funds immediately available, shipped, UPS deducted fees…all fine.

Fast forward (but only about a month and a week).

Every month we try to go around our house and look for things we don’t use and either donate them locally or if we think we can sell them, we list them on eBay.  This is a practice I generally recommend.  I sold Dell computer manuals for $25 one time.  Just the manuals that come with your computer (which are worthless mostly)…amazing.  This time around I had a Russian replica submarine clock that I had bought about 11 years ago.  A quick check on eBay showed they were getting bought, so what the heck.  Here was my listing: Russian Submarine Clock Vostok Hammer/Sickle RARE (note: this link might not be available in 60 days).  It’s a clock.  Not even an automatic one, it requires being wound every 4 days or so.  Something substantially less “valuable” than modern day sought-after electronics I’d argue.  Keep this in mind for later reading.

It sold and the buyer paid via PayPal and was a verified buyer and a verified/confirmed address.  Note that both of these are required for seller/buyer protection for PayPal transactions – again, following the guidelines set forth.  I went through my normal process and began printing out the label.  While the screen said this:

The error message read this:

So I was thinking What gives? and called support.  As I was talking to them I noticed the header of the “details” page of the transaction:

Payment review?!  First time I’ve ever heard of it.  At first I was thinking this was a good thing and PayPal just protected me from fraud.  Then I read the link which details out the reasons why something would be “on hold”:

    • You have been an eBay member for less than 6 months, and you sell an item for more than $100
    • You have an eBay feedback score of less than 100, and you sell an item for more than $100
    • You have a buyer dissatisfaction percentage* greater than 5%
    • You have an average DSR of less than 4.5
    • You have received fewer than 20 Detailed Seller Ratings in the last 12 months
    • You are listing your item in a high-risk category such as gift certificates, video games, cell phones, computers, or consumer electronics.

None of which applied to me.  I was now livid and let the customer service supervisor (I had asked to escalate), Marie 6168, know how unappreciative I was of this and explained that even *if* I fell into one of those buckets why did my November transaction (which fell into the last bucket of electronics) give me no problems and was for an amount significantly greater?  Her answer then moved from explaining that I was “in review” because of one of the above to “it’s random.”  Great.  Warm feelings all around now.  I was also then told that my hand-crank wall clock with no electronics was flagged because it is a high-risk category.  LMAO!

NOTE: I’m curious if the actual flag was because of the word “Russian” in the title.  I’ve had problems with dealing with legitimate commerce with anything Russian related in the past because financial institutions are leery.  Even if this is the case, the buyer and seller followed all rules for verification for all systems (eBay and PayPal) and therefore doesn’t seem like the title of the item should throw a flag!

At this point I’m pretty pissed.  I was told by Marie 6168 that I wasn’t being forced into doing anything and didn’t have to ship the item.  WHAT?!  How is that?  By not shipping the item (or waiting for the hold to be released), the buyer gets screwed and leaves negative feedback and my eBay reputation takes a hit (something very important in eBay land).  I felt like my eBay reputation was being held hostage.

So at this point I’ve been informed:

    • I’ve sold something and the verified buyer has sent funds to the verified seller.
    • The funds have been put on hold and I don’t have access to them.
    • The funds will be released sometime within 21 days
    • That I should ship the item.

That’s right.  PayPal, as the broker of the funds, has received money for an item I sold.  Then they are asking me to go ahead and ship that item to the buyer.  WTF?!  How is this protection for me?  It seems the buyer is the only one protected.  They will ultimately get the goods and if there were any issues with the funds, I’d be out the goods.  How is that protection on my end AT ALL?

It looks like I’m not alone either based on a conversation at Get Satisfaction.  I was not afforded any opportunity to escalate any further beyond Marie 6168 despite my best attempts.  All I could get was an email address I was told to be the executive offices – [email protected].  I hope their reading this.

I feel as a verified/Premier customer of PayPal since 2000 and a customer of eBay since 1998 (with a 100% rating) that some discretion should have been made here and the funds should be available.  This idea of PayPal managing when I get funds based on their rules versus standard commerce is ridiculous.

The problem is that the eBay/PayPal relationship is almost a requirement for online auction commerce.  Where else are you going to go for a world of buyers and a broker, which up until now, helped put a protective wall between the money?  Craigslist?  Sure that’s fine, but I knew that my local market wasn’t big enough for a Russian Sub clock!

PayPal – you currently are on my suck list.  Whatever systems in place that automate this payment holding process need revisiting.  You’ve made a verified/premier/long-term customer who follows the rules very angry. 

Win me back.

UPDATE 1: I shipped the item from my local UPS store.  Cost me $7 more than if I would have used my UPS account tied to my PayPal account.  So this process has cost me additional money in addition to not receiving funds for my item yet.

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as the holidays are upon us there always seems to be that one gift that controls your life while looking for it.  back in the early 1980s it was the cabbage patch doll, then many years later tickle me elmo was the hit (i remember that $30 item going for $2500 on a radio station).  it is amazing what we do as humans to satisfy others.

Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

this year, it seems to be the nintendo wii.  my mother-in-law was putting all the game shops on speed dial and trying to flirt with them to hold one when she got in.  weird thing is about 2 months ago lisa and i got one for our festivus raffle and they were plenty in stock where i shopped (best buy).  i guess they aren't now, and there is a frenzy to get some. (side note: at our party there was some serious bidding going on to the winners of the wii, people were offering cash on the spot.)

yesterday my sister-in-law called me and was at toys-r-us and said they had a bunch of wii consoles in stock.  she of course wanted me to let my m-in-law know, which i did.  i also come to find out that my sis-in-law decided to be a bit of an entrepreneur and picked one up for herself.  not to sell to someone who was looking for one.  not to pick one up for a friend.  nope.  that's right, ebay.  she wanted to capitalize on the frenzy as well.

she just called me to say she sold it for $490 on ebay and was asking all sorts of questions about paypal, etc.  i explained some things the best i could over the phone.  she then said that the winner had an unverified address in the virgin islands.

wooop, wooop, wooop (my best attempt at writing a siren sound)

my fraud alert went off and i shared my concern with her.  i think she might be about to get screwed.  it reminded me about n00b ebayers and some guidelines they should use.  here's my rules (even as a 'veteran' ebayer)..

for ebay sellers

    • list items with real pictures...don't use the mfr pictures...include a link, but take a good photo of the item.  good photos of the actual item will sell it, not people wondering what it will look like
    • if you have all the original packaging, etc. -- note that
    • require instant payment -- you may lose 1% of bidders, but it is piece of mind for you
    • don't forget to set a reserve price if you are looking for a specific amount.  don't set it too high though or people will just walk away
    • state your bidding rules clearly in the listing
    • state your shipping rules clearly in the listing: i require united states only and a verified shipping address only.  i also make it clear where (city, state, zip) it is being shipped from and that buyer will pay all shipping/handling costs from that location...
    • offer incentives: i usually have a buy-it-now price and offer free shipping
    • don't put unnecessary bling on your listing -- i don't know why ebay offers sellers to put a counter on the listing -- the only person caring about the counter would be you -- reminds me of the 'hit counter' icons that were so cool in the mid 1990s.
    • when you get a buyer that you are satisfied with, leave feedback promptly
    • when an item is paid for, email the paypal user email address with confirmation of receipt of money and confirmation of address.  this is an additional fraud step for you (and them) and shows good communication
    • pay attention to your email -- ebay lives on email communication -- if you don't check your email often, get off ebay please.

for ebay buyers

    • be sure to see pictures of the actual item -- if they aren't there -- be suspicious and email the seller
    • only buy from reputable ebayers -- ebay has a decent reputation system...research the seller, look at the number of transactions they have...if they have none and are selling a brand new XBOX, be suspicious :-)
    • be cautious of buying 'overseas' -- this applies for US buying from non-US and vice versa.
    • look for fast ship options
    • look for return policies, it might not be important but if there is one, note it
    • don't leave feedback until you received your item as expected
    • PRINT OUT THE LISTING -- ebay purges listings over time and you might want to keep a record of more significant purchases
    • use respected payment vendors, be cautious of money-order only sales...paypal has always worked well for me
    • check your email/spam filters

paypal tips

    • get a premier account -- if you plan on buying/selling on ebay, upgrade your account.  i think this requires you to supply a verified checking account, but it is worth it
    • verify your address -- this may be a part of the premier account process now, but don't make your paypal account look suspicious
    • make sure your ebay username/email and paypal email are similar.  if your ebay email is [email protected] but your paypal account is [email protected] it looks like two different people
    • make sure your transaction is covered by their fraud protection -- do the research on the amount, etc.
    • consider using paypal secure id cards (something new they are testing) for added security

those are some of the rules i follow and have never been frauded (almost have but i followed my steps and discovered it before anything was shipped).  i think rookie ebayers/paypalers simply don't pay attention to the finer details and end up having to ship something to singapore and gave a fixed shipping rate of US$10...then realize they are screwed...among other mistakes.

so this holiday season, ebayer beware.

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the other day i wrote about the social networks my wife has setup/belongs to.  i mentioned the 'qcbay' sales aspect of one of them.  i'll say that i'm an avid ebay user and occiasional craigslist lurker...but this time i decided to try out the wife network system of QCBay.

i had an imac i wanted to sell (powerpc one).  my wife walked me through the instructions (read:rules) of listing something in her network...i did it under her name of course.  look at the timestamps on the mail.

the first (10:01am is my message sent to the network).  the second (10:12am) is the sale.  well, to be fair, the third (10:34am) is the final approval of the sale.  the second note was a message of 'does it burn DVDs? if so, i'll take it' so i'm counting that as the sale.

holy crap -- 11 minutes to a sale of a reasonably priced item (meaning it wasn't cheap).  i wonder if craigslist can beat that.  i was shocked.  i was actually on the phone when i put in the email and also noticed a bunch of call waiting calls popping in from my wife's friends...i discounted them as just chatter.  however, after checking the messages, in the first 15 minutes of the email, 3 others had called and wanted to buy it.  impressive, qcbay, impressive.