Clueless Craigslist scammers

I am posting this here because it is not really a rant or complaint but an observation.

I am trying to sell a used RV on Craigslist and some other sites. I have been contacted several times by scammers that send bogus cashier’s checks for thousands more than my asking price. I reply that my bank refused the checks, which is a lie, I won’t even try to deposit them. Usually, they never contact me again. So far I have 5 checks totalling more than $110,000.

My observation is not that there are scummy people in this world but that they are not terribly good at it. The emails are often forwarded boilerplate with key words missing. One forgot to add the item he wished to buy and I had to ask him what he wanted. During my interactions with them, their names and addresses change frequently. Once, I got a tracking number but no package arrived. One of them, when informed that my bank rejected his check, sent me another for the same amount but with better security markings. The names on the checks do not correspond to their emails, so I cannot be certain which scammer belongs to each check. It costs them about $9 to mail a check and printing cost are low so I guess they still make money with a low success rate but I have to wonder how many people still fall for this.

In case you ask, I reported the checks to the FTC but even their web site says that they are just collecting data and it is unlikely that a criminal case will result.

A common (possible) answer to that question is that all the things that make it so obviously a scam are meant to weed out the people who will see right through it.
The people that don’t notice the terrible grammar, inconsistencies and everything else that screams ‘scam’ are the marks they want. They could up their game a bit by making everything more polished, but at some point, this potential buyer is going to request that you send them money. At that point you’ll most likely know something is wrong. They’d much rather you just catch on to them at the beginning and delete the email.

He didn’t forget. The “Is this item still available” emails are deliberately vague so it doesn’t matter if you’re selling a car or a coffee table, they can send the same email to everyone.

But how much money were they going to make? If you’re selling an RV for 10,000 and they ‘accidentally’ send you a check for $15,000 and request that you send the $5k back to them, they don’t have to have a lot of success to come out ahead. You said it costs $9 to send you a check. Lets round it up to $15 to include their time and whatever other expenses are involved for them. They could send out over 150 checks and if just one person returns the $5000, they’d still up $2500.

Just like the various call center scams. For how much they bring in, they can afford to put quite a bit of money into it. To relate this example to your question, think about how many people pick up their phone to hear someone with a strong accent telling them about an accidental charge from Amazon that they need to clear up and simply hang up on them. That’s one more person that likely wouldn’t have fallen for the scam, so the scammer would rather just be on to the next person as soon as possible.

This is a sample email. I took it for a romantic proposal.

Hi, I’m Jesica Brown. I like yours and am very interested. Have you available? Please Give me feedback.

" Hi Jessica,
Are you up for threesomes or do you prefer larger groups?
Personally, I like to hang out at the dog park and check out the prospects. Do you like pets?
If we meet, do you prefer I cover the scars or show them off?"

They aren’t clueless. It’s a booming business. They only need the occasional hit

I was selling a 100-year-old table on Craigslist a few months ago. First respknse: “I want to buy it. Are you the original owner?” I received 3 more identical responses over the next couple days.

“Actually, my mother bought it from George Washington.”

Back in the mid 80s I picked up a side gig working a boiler room for one of those time share deals [you know, you filled out a form to won a weekend at a resort - everybody that qualified wins the weekend you just have to go to a time share selling meeting] My job was to open the box of little forms, flip through them and call the people that passed the first look qualification [typically we were looking for married couples not singles] to check on income level [more or less - we wanted to know rent or mortgage, full time job, certain indicators like that]

Yes it was actually legal - everybody that passed the checks did get a weekend at the time share resort, all the did have to do was go to the sales meeting, they did not have to buy anything, just provide their own transport there and home again. I did actually visit the places [we screened for 3 different properties] we handled the forms for. Not bad, we had 3 price points - basic like a seaside motel, medium range - decent apartments a block off the beach, and high end - luxury condos on the beach.

They obviously managed to sell time share vacations - I was getting $9 an hour, plus ever lead I called that actually sold I got $50. There were at least 40-50 more people working in my boiler room, management and then those actually at the time share properties, and the property costs. Scammie? I guess - it really wasn’t a vacation, they wanted bodies in seats to sell them something.

I have experience from the other side. This was a while ago - last century.

My wife was quite taken with the brochures and we went to a presentation where my scepticism proved well founded. We stayed with the programme though and were invited to Teneriffe for a week in one of their apartments - flights included, so what’s not to like?

We were ferried to the apartment block from the airport and, to be fair, it was pretty nice. A guy we christened “Mr Enthusiastic” came to see us and then drove us to a nearby beach while extolling the benefits of owning an apartment there and showing us all the entertainment etc.

In fact, the area around the apartment block was quite run down and there seemed to be a lot of concrete. The nearest beach was pretty poor too. Mr Enthusiastic bought us drinks and wound his sales pitch up to the max. Eventually, he realised that we were not convinced and just left us where we were and we had to find a taxi to get back.

There were a couple of other half-hearted attempts to convince us to “invest” but we kept our chequebook firmly out of sight and did our own sightseeing. After what was a pleasant week in Teneriffe, we went home and never heard from them again.

To be clear, I wasn’t talking about telemarketing (even something like time shares), I was talking about actual scammers. The ones that call you up, tell you about some erroneous charge on your credit card from Amazon for $200 and then manage to walk away with 20k of your money.

Mark Rober did a youtube video on one of these call centers. In it, he mentioned that a call center with 20 people could, in a single 8 hour shift send out a half million calls. Of those half million calls, about 5-10 would fall for the scam to the tune of (on average) 10k each.
To get back (sorta) to the OP about it being worth it for such a low turnover rate. It is. In this example, if the call center is manned 24 hours a day, it’s bringing in $150,000 to $300,000 per day. For 480 man hours per day, you’d have to pay them a whole hell of a lot more than they’re [probably] being paid to make a dent in the amount of money coming in.

I always feel like I ‘won’ when I never hear back from a pushy sales person that I just assumed was going to call/text/email me a few times a week for the next month or so.