Don’t Buy Computers Off Craigslist When The Seller Has Suddenly Left For Toronto

Z. found a great deal on an Asus notebook computer on his local Craigslist in Florida. “I am now in Toronto,” the seller explained before going through with the transaction. Z. and his mom ignored every anti-scam warning posted on Craigslist, and just sort of assumed that this meant the seller was on a trip to Toronto and had taken the computer with her. Z. is underage, and his mom used Western Union to wire the money. They waited. No computer came.

The seller used a third-party verification/courier service that we won’t name yet because we’re still trying to confirm whether it’s legit. The seller told Z. that only Western Union works with the courier/escrow service.

Everything looked just like a regular transaction, Z’s mom tells us. Except for the part where the transaction began on a local Craigslist but somehow ends with electronics being shipped internationally.

Hi, I am getting back to you regarding the Asus Zenbook from Craigslist
My name is Stephanie and I am now in Toronto.
Please take a look at the pictures attached to this email.
The laptop is in perfect shape.
Everything that came with the laptop is included (warranty as well).
I tried to be as thorough as I could with the presentation so you can have all the info if you decide to go ahead and buy it

Let me know.

Z. wrote back with his contact information and saying that everything was fine, and the seller sent this set of instructions:

The transaction will go like this. The first step is to send me your name and address and then I can send the laptop. Which you already did.

After I take the laptop to [the courier service] they will verify the laptop, and then contact you to confirm
they have the laptop and the specifications of the laptop and that they are ready to deliver the laptop using Fedex or UPS.

They will also send you a set of payment instructions and once you complete the payment to them and they secure the funds they will deliver the laptop.

After you receive the laptop and use it and check it and see that it is as I described you will notify [the courier]

Please to send me the funds and the deal will be complete.

Can we do this?

Z. did, and is now out a few hundred dollars and a lot less innocent. When a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. When a deal that began on Craigslist ends up as an international transaction, RUN AWAY, no matter how smooth the seller acts.

We told Z. and his mom to report the seller and the potentially fake courier site to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and to their local police. It’s unlikely that they’ll get their money back, but the most important thing for them to do is share their story–with friends, with the Internet, with Z’s teenage friends, and with anyone who could possibly fall prey to a scam like this.