the Craigslist scammer letters

It’s that time again: mind games with the scammers!

Back in 2004 during the hey-day of the Nigerian “advance fee” email frauds, I had a lot of fun with just such an email scammer.

Well it’s happening again; but this time around, it’s due to my recent sales on Craigslist that has drummed up all the scammer interest. It’s such a widespread phenomenon that the Craigslist admins have a posted warning about it, in addition to including the following warning in each of their emails:

** CRAIGSLIST ADVISORY — AVOID SCAMS BY DEALING LOCALLY
** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.html

All very good steps to help protect people from themselves, i.e. making disastrously poor financial decisions with the help of some possibly Nigerian businessman.

Since entering the Craigslist seller’s world, I’ve gotten the occasional scarm reply. Now the safest and probably wisest response would be that of silence — simply ignoring the bogus replies and focusing on the legitimate prospective buyers.

But I just can’t resist playing with them for a while. The goal of course is to see how long you can sustain a dialog. And the challenge is coming up with interesting twists and always the promise of money to keep the scammer hooked.

The following correspondence is from one Mr. Smith Smith (the guy so nice they named him twice?). He claimed to be interested in buying my lot of cell phones. Once again, his replies are in black, mine are in blue with some internal dialog in red. Enjoy!

From: “Smith Smith”
To: sale-264095671@craigslist.org
Date: Thu, January 18, 2007 3:11 am
Subject: Sony Ericsson cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE accessories – $75

Hello
i will like to know if this item is still for sale and still in good conditions?your prompt response will be appreciated

——————————————————————
this message was remailed to you via: sale-264095671@craigslist.org
——————————————————————

Besides the poor punctuation and grammar (you see all levels of English mastery from Craigslist), it’s innocuous so far. In fact, at this point I didn’t realize he was a scammer:

From: Rob
To: “‘Smith Smith'”
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 08:59:10 -0700
Subject: RE: Sony Ericsson cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE accessories – $75

Smith, the phones and accessories are still available, but I
have someone interested in buying them tomorrow morning. I
can keep you posted if that falls through though.

The condition of the phones are very good and fair. The
condition of the chargers are all excellent. The condition
of the headset is excellent. The condition of the leather
pouch is excellent.

Thanks for the email!

From: “Smith Smith”
To: “Rob”
Date: Thu, January 18, 2007 11:07 am
Subject: RE: Sony Ericsson cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE accessories – $75

 

Hello,I am very grateful and impressed you reply my question and i am ready to make the immediate payment which is via AlertPay International Money Order and for the payment to commence all i need is your payment address and your full email address so the payment can be made and once the payment has been approved by the Alertpay Money Oder Company you will receive a confirmation notification mail from AlertPay for you to be sure that i have paid for the item and after the confirmation has been recieved,the shipment will take place which will be handled by my self cuz i have an account with a shipping company(Fedex Courier Service)by sending you fedex prepaid slips.(Note):

-You might have recieved some offers from different people regarding your item,but i will like to be the highest bidder,so for this reason i am offering $120 for the item hope you will accept my offer.So kindly send me your payment address for the payment to be posted immediately to your contact address.Thanks

Ok, now it’s definitely crossed the line into scammer territory. The game is afoot!


From: Rob
To: “Smith Smith”
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 10:22:16 -0700
Subject: RE: Sony Ericsson cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE accessories – $75

Sounds good, Smith Smith! In fact, because you are so diligent in the request of bidding for my goods, I want to make for trust transaction you to have best chances. Please make for final payments of $150 US, and I will see that it is yours today!

My business email address is: richard_robert@mullet.com
My address for which to you send me the moneys are:
312 Juneberry Street
Mormon City, Utah 84118

Yours true,
Ricky Bobby (my friends call me this name)

To my mind, the most confusing pranks are the ones wherein the premises change midway through. Hence, it made the most sense to me to suddenly go all Eastern Bloc heavy accent on him. I picture taking dictation from Borat. Unfazed with the random dialect change, Mr. Smith continues:

From: “Smith Smith”
To: “Rob”
Date: Thu, January 18, 2007 11:44 am
Subject: gone for payment

 

Hello,
I want you to know that i have fill out your name and address to alertpay to proceed with the payment,so get back to me with the lbs of the package as soon as you receive the confirmation mail for you to know that you payment has be confirm .so i can send you the shipping info….I hope to hear back from you soon….

And lickety split, I got an email from the alleged “Alertpay”! I’m not sure if he fell for the bogus email address (richard_robert@mullet.com). One can hope.

From: “OnlinePayCash @Alertpay.com”

To: rob
Date: Thu, January 18, 2007 11:42 am
Subject: **** ALERTPAY PAYMENT CONFIRMATION APPROVED/RECEIPT ****#354671

[IMAGE]

Many choices for you to send money and pay bills.

[IMAGE] MAKE ALERTPAY YOUR WAY TO PAY!
[IMAGE] Dear Ricky Bobby,

Congratulations! The order placed by the buyer for your item”Sherry
Smith”to {1} have a {2} AlertPay Service branded Online Payment®$150.00 (USD)
sent to you as payment for the item”Sony Ericsson {1} cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE accessories”has {1} been successfully processed and has consequently been APPROVED. The financial details of the transaction are stated below:
—————————–
*FINANCIAL DETAILS*
(NOTE: All amounts are in US$)
—————————–
Item Site : Craigslist
Item : Sony Ericsson cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE accessories
—————————–
TOTAL : $150.00
—————————–

And we will send to the above address payment in 3-5 business days.You {1} can now ship the merchandise to the buyer’s shipping address.You {1} are expected to make the shipment within 48 hours of recieving {3} this Payment Approval Notification and get to our Customer/Technical Dept.With {1} the tracking number for payment Verification. If the buyer has requested that the item be sent to any address other than the one provided above,please {1} ship the item out and notify us immediately at (paysonline_account@post.com)

Payment receipt summary:

Order Number: 354671
Auction Payments Order Available
Order Placed 01/18/2007
Order Status Payment Available
Payment Approved Payment Confirmed
Billing Information:
Status: Processed successfully
Card Type MasterCard
Card Number 5***********5279
Exp. Date 17/07/2007
Name on Card Sherry Smith
Services Purchased: Online Payment
Total Amount posted to card $4,370.00
Payments Fee $00.00
Payment Amount $150.00
Purchased Item Information:
Auction site N/L
Item Description Sony Ericsson cell phones, Cingular contract + FREE
accessories
Seller Information:
Name Ricky Bobby
Street address 312 Juneberry Street
City, State, Zip Mormon City, Utah 84118
Country United State
Phone Number NIL
Email rob

This email was all HTML with lots of professional looking images. It looked sort of like a PayPal or eBay billing email. But again there were those few conspicuous grammatical errors and not-quite-English wording (see footnotes which highlight these errors).

I have no idea what the $4,370.00 is all about. Probably another tactic to lure in suckers. Notice that he took my demand to up the cost to $150?! He also didn’t seem too concerned by my bogus mailing address. I happily replied:


From: Rob
To: “Smith Smith”
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 10:53AM
Subject: RE: gone for payment

Excellent for joy! Please be noted that the weight of this package is 28.7 pounds. This is so heavy because I like to put in there samples of our local brick making plant output. We in Juneberry have very finest masonry plant in all of Lower Utah peninsula. It is of such quality as to make you cry. You will see and not be disappoint.

Again, much love to you and your God-fearing country.
Sincerely,
Ricky (Mr. Bobby)

I may be veering too close to weirdness. I don’t want to lose him but I also want to keep him guessing.

Perhaps I should have used a real mailing address because I haven’t heard back from him. In a last effort, I replied again:


From: Rob
To: “Smith Smith”
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 1:04PM
Subject: RE: gone for payment

Kind Sir Smith:

Please be aware that I tried for click the logon in the AlertPay you send me. This is but much frustration, as nothing happens. Do I need big speed internet wires?

Have you note that I be on very small connection. In Juneberry, we have poor fastness for internet. I mean to say: it is much slow. This in because our township moneys all go toward the masonry plant. We have no left for copper plant for which wires be made. As results, cable and such are huge expense in my town. If only cables would be made with bricks! HAHA, THAT BE rich Juneberrian then, Mr. Smith?

Please good man, tell you me what status we are in now. I am anxious to be rid myself of the evil USA bastard cell phone companies that make me sick in my mouth. But I know that you of your stature will be high successful with them.

I wait your E-message,
Mr. Bobby

Indeed, Mr. Smith. I know you are out there, preying on the irrationally gullible minds of American consumers with high debt-to-income ratios. And I stand in solidarity with all those Juneberrians. We want you to answer for your high crimes. We await your message…

Footnotes:

  1. grammar error: no spaces between words [] [] [] [] [] [] []
  2. grammar error: wrong article []
  3. grammar error: misspelling []

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12 Comments

  1. I have had same experences and now send hate-ful emails to the nigerians and now they have much slicker Paypal lookalike CHECK IT OUT CALLED STORMPAY

    From: “stormpay account” Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
    To: “Dennis White”
    Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2007 04:37:05 -0500
    Subject: PAYMENT ON THE WAY

    Thanks for your reply.you don’t need to bother your self because,stormpay is a security company of type that transport valueble goods and consignment accross offshore countries arround the whole world.therefore you should go ahead and have the item shipped today to the address given to you as your payment will reach as soon as possible.
    Thanks once again and get back ASAP with the tracking number of the item shipped

  2. That was stinking hilarious!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been hit by scammers several times and it just makes me sooo mad. This was a great idea! What fun!

  3. Rob, 

    I love your exchange so much.  It’s hilarious.  I’m sending it to all my friends. Do you mind if I use the response about belonging to Homeland Security and the Grammar Police the next time I get a scam?

  4. It’s tremendously funny. I have also seen such stuff or baits used against a number of scammers from a certain country which I do not want to name.

  5. I had no idea that these dudes were preying on Craigslist! I have had my fair share of emailed ones though, but I loved the way you took the time to “play” with him. I’m sure you enjoyed the exercise to

    ~Bruce

  6. Reminds me of the other scam that my mother in law almost fell prey to, where a dude phones an elderly person, and asks “who’s your favorite grandson?” then when told proceeds with a phone appeal for help to get “Johnny” out of the pickle he’s in by sending money.

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