WRAL Investigates

Craigslist scammers tug at heart strings before taking money

Posted February 22, 2011 6:52 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2011 8:03 a.m. EST

— Craigslist scammers prey on people looking for good deals on the popular classifieds website. A Triangle woman looking for a car found a seller with a sad story but later discovered that the ads and the pictures were fake.

Emily Iversen, of Raleigh, wanted to help her mother find a car. They searched on Craigslist.

"I put in a search for a Forester or a CRV," Iversen said. "I saw this amazing, like, this can't be true, deal."

She contacted the seller and got this reply: "Automatic transmission. It's in perfect condition. Exterior no scratches. Interior no rips, tears, stains."

The seller was asking $3,900.

"Who wouldn't jump at that opportunity?" Iversen asked.

The seller also included personal details in her reply. She wrote that the car belonged to her son, who died in a bike accident, and that she just wanted to get rid of it because of the memories it brought her.

There was a link to pictures and a vehicle identification number, but when Iversen talked to her mother about it, she discovered an interesting twist.

Her mother had found a different car on Craigslist and had a nearly identical exchange with the seller.

"Red flags. Ding ding ding," Iversen said.

A quick Internet search showed Iversen that it's a common scam. A scam-reporting website showed a Honda motorcycle, horse trailer and tractor all for sale at bargain prices and all from people who said their son or husband died in Iraq.

Each ad requested payment through "eBay's vehicle purchase protection program," which, according to eBay, doesn't exist.

"It was sickening. I got a feeling in my stomach that just made me sick that someone's doing this to all these people," Iversen said.

She and her mother contacted 5 On Your Side to get the word out.

"See the car. Take it for a ride. See the service records. See what it has instead of just reading about it," she said.

See advice from Craigslist about avoiding scams here.