Craigslist Scammer Buys Recalled Dehumidifiers From Afar, Flips Them For Manufacturer Refunds

Have you ever read about a scam that’s so clever that you just have to admire the scam itself? Not that you, personally, would ever scam anyone. That’s how we at Consumerist feel about the person out of state who contacted reader Mark and offered to buy his Frigidaire dehumidifier. Mark didn’t know that it was part of the Great Flaming Dehumidifier Recall of 2013, but the scammer did.

Something about the prospective buyer’s message didn’t sit right with Mark, which is why he contacted Consumerist in the first place. He explained that he’s moving, and listed his used dehumidifier on Craigslist for $100. That’s about half what he paid for it.

“I received a baffling message that appears to be a scam, but I can’t seem to figure out how it works,” he wrote to Consumerist. The buyer wanted to buy Mark’s appliance, but didn’t want the whole appliance. He just wanted the sticker with the serial number, along with the cord.

Here’s his correspondent’s original message, spelling errors intact:

I will give you full price , but I need you after I pay to cut the cord 6 inches from the plug and scrape off the factory sticker and place it on gloss photo paper and put it in a bubble wrap insides manilla envelop and I will give $10 more for shipping through USPS and send it to me at [out of state address]. You can keep the unit.

Keeping the unit isn’t all that useful without the electric plug, but Mark could send it for recycling and wouldn’t need to pack it up to ship. What a great deal! But what would the other party get out of it? This didn’t sit right with Mark, which is why he wrote to us.

Mark must have missed our coverage of the Great Flaming Dehumidifier Recall. It’s easy to see how: Gree Electric Appliances made the appliances for brands ranging from GE to Kenmore to Frigidaire, adding brands and models along the way.

Mark was selling his dehumidifier for $100, but bought it new for closer to $200. While the refund from the manufacturer won’t cover the whole replacement cost of a new unit, something that irked many of our readers, it means that if Mark went along with this scheme, the scammer would make around $90 for not doing anything.

Since it is technically illegal to re-sell a recalled appliance, maybe this recall flipper is doing the used-appliance buyers of America a favor. Not so much with the used appliance sellers of the world, though, and this scheme definitely isn’t fair to manufacturers running recalls.

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  1. oomingmak says:

    I’m not so sure I would go so far as to label this a scam.

    How is this really different from buying something at a tag sale that you know you can resell for a 200% to 300% profit? Seller gets their asking price and the buyer makes some money on the deal.

    • C0Y0TY says:

      There’s the “technically illegal to re-sell a recalled appliance” bit, which would make Mark an unwitting felon with associated penalties, and the fact that Mark can get more from the manufacturer legally than from the scammer.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      This is very much like when people sell forms or publications that the government gives away for free. I will admit that I can’t quite quantify it or draw a bright line, I just know in my heart it’s still a scam, no matter how much you try to value your knowledge of how to find these things.