Upon moving to our 4.5 acres in the country, we decided we might need a piece of equipment to handle our land since our push lawnmower has begun to sputter in protest. On to Craigslist we went. Note: I’m leaving our scammer’s correspondence unedited – errors and all.
The Craigslist Ad
2002 JOHN DEERE 4X4 TRACTOR W/ LOADER 4010 DIESEL – $2750 (ROUND ROCK, TX)
If you are interested to buy my tractor, please contact me for more details: scammer’s comcast.net email address.
The ad had some nice pictures of the tractor with a house in the background. Since we live about an hour from Round Rock, Texas we thought we’d drive up and take a look. To be clear, we wondered immediately why the tractor was priced so low and wondered if something weird was going on, but hey, we had to check it out, right?
To start the process we asked the seller to give us his phone number and we gave him ours in return. We got this response.
Thank you for your interest in my tractor. I just moved to Helena, MT and there are a lot of things that have priority now, so this tractor has to go. It looks exactly as pictured, comes with the finish mower, has 340 hours and mower has less than that, work ready, has no mechanical flaws, and I will agree selling it for $2.750. I am willing to sell it fast, so get back to me only if you’re ready to make this purchase. This is a very well maintained tractor, clear title no liens, under my name and in hand. Due to the fact that I am very busy with my work I need a fast transaction, and I can`t afford to waste time on advertising the tractor at the true value. If you’re willing to make this purchase, contact me asap and let’s start the transaction.
Huh? Now we had four more red flags to add to our initial red flag of the price being way too low.
1. We thought the tractor was in Round Rock, Texas. Now this guy is telling us he just moved to Montana so we can’t see the item we want to buy. Already we know the guy placed a deceptive ad.
2. He’s incredibly busy and needs to sell it fast. Folks who push for a fast sale should make us all pause and wonder why.
3. He can’t waste time advertising the tractor at the true value? Why not? How much time could it possibly take to price the thing at what it is worth? By pricing it so low, this guy is inviting suspicion. We began to doubt the authenticity of the posted pictures and wondered what was wrong with the tractor.
4. Notice the formatting of the price – $2.750. Our guy is not American and likely not even in America since he’s using a period in the price rather than a comma for the thousands separator in the price.
Curious, we replied with the following:
I am extremely interested, but a couple more questions: 1. Is this tractor in Round Rock as mentioned in the Craigslist ad?, and 2. If the tractor is in Round Rock, when and where can I view it?
The Plot Thickens
The plot thickened as we read his response. Now remember, this guy is very busy, but we got responses to our emails in just five minutes.
Thanks for getting back with me,
The tractor is at the shipping company ready for the shipping. I have a contract with eBay so this deal must go through them, being the safest for both of us. Let me explain how it works:
First of all I will need your full name and shipping address so I can register the transaction with eBay. Once you receive the details from eBay, the tractor will be reserved for you until you read the details and decide if you want to proceed or not. You will have a 5 days inspection period, after the tractor arrives at your address to make sure it is as shown in the photos and in good working order. If by any reason the tractor is not as described or if you find any problems with it, I will arrange to ship it back on my cost.
eBay will hold the funds until the inspection period is over and you decide if you’re going to buy it or not. This way you’re not going to pay for something you haven’t seen and with the inspection period you can make sure it’s as described.
If you agree with this terms please reply with your full name and address so we can get the ball rolling.
So now our scam artist wants personal information from us and we’ve received none for him (despite a request for a phone number so we can arrange an appointment to see the tractor) except for an email address that is likely a throwaway email. Our attention shifted from finding a tractor to solving a puzzle. What was the scam? We decided that this scammer probably wanted our info so he could somehow get the money and have the tractor shipped to him since he wanted to begin the transaction on his end with our information. The reality was much more sinister. We Googled “e-bay 2002 John Deere 4X4 tractor” and got this from an eBay Guide:
“There are almost continuous auctions claiming to be selling a 2001 or 2002 John Deere 455 usually with a loader and a deck , there is usually an off eBay buy it now of $2,900.00 or $3,000.00.
These are a known scam. The scammers operate by hijacking unsuspecting victim’s eBay accounts, so the feedback and reputation looks good. Do not contact the included non eBay email address in the auctions. It will have some lame excuse about the eBay email being full or not working. I would be leery of the regular eBay email as well because if they hijack an account they can forward the mail to themselves.
I have killed at least a dozen of these ads and just about every day there is a new one . . . While you are at it, watch out for getting YOUR account stolen, if some auction doesn’t seem legit and you get a sign in to your account page when you were already signed in, think scam and go to your home page NOT using any link from the auction page. A friend of mine even got a PHONE CALL requesting his sign in info. So there are lots of scammers out there.”1
We reported this to the Craigslist abuse email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and wonder how this scammer sleeps at night.
What You Can Do
Trust your gut when shopping in cyberspace. If you have even the tiniest doubt, don’t buy and never give out any personal information in a situation like this. You can help stop scammers. Report them when you encounter them. You may not think it will help because there are so many out there, but if we remain apathetic, they win.
Here is one example of someone who pursued the matter and got satisfying results.