At 2:00 am I found myself sitting half-naked in my desk chair, staring deeply into the incandescent glow of my monitor as I scanned an email. I had been trying to sell my iMac on craigslist for a few weeks, and I had a bite. Or at least from the subject line, it looked like a bite. Upon opening it, however, I was sorely disappointed.

As if the font and color weren’t suspicious enough, -I’m fairly convinced it is just an email signature- the ambiguity of the message itself spoke to the true nature of the email. However, I was bored, I didn’t want to sleep, and I also really wanted to sell my computer. Being abroad, I could forgive the poor english and formatting. I would reply.

To which the “buyer” would respond:

As soon as I received reply, the intent of the email was confirmed, and I wasn’t the dope this scammer was looking for. The immediate reaction I had was anger. How could anyone think I was so stupid as to believe such a ridiculous yarn? I boiled over and actually wrote some profanity, and was about to hit send before I remembered my recent resolution to be less of a misanthrope. I replied simply.

Usually this is where the scammer realizes that the gig is up and the correspondence ceases. “Sandra” as it seems, is quite persistent.

I was feeling snarky and facetiously suggested that she should give me her PayPal ID and pin. That email never left. Instead, I thought that it might be interesting to play this game.

As you may be aware, my name is not Scrammer P Manner. The PayPal account I gave was also a dummy account. That should be obvious. It should have also been obvious to the scammer that I had given a false name, as I replied to the craigslist request with my personal email, which has my real name. Apparently that didn’t matter much to “Sandra”, because a few minutes later an email ostensibly from PayPal magically landed in my inbox.

The email is actually fairly convincing, at least at first glance. Apparently, I am first to ship the package. Then and only after the package is shipped and the tracking number sent to “customer service” will my account be credited. The email isn’t poorly done. It has legalish wording and is replete with the appropriate PayPal logos and credit card branding. However, there are a few obvious errors. The poor formatting should arouse suspicion, and so should the account name. Although the name is apparently registered to the name [email protected], the address itself is [email protected]. As if that weren’t enough, there’s an advertisement link at the bottom, imploring me to get a “cool, short Email ID now!”.

Curious to see how far this rabbit hole would go, I did my best to frustrate and confuse poor “Sandra”. She hung on longer than I would have expected, but after this email, I never heard from “her” again:

I suppose the moral of this story is to never sell anything on craigslist, or any other site of a similar nature, unless that person is standing right in front of you, money in hand. I hate to say it, but don’t be stupid. If it sounds like a deal that’s too good to be true, then don’t believe it. Beware if the buyer doesn’t try to negotiate, ask about the physical condition of the product or ask why it is being sold. Simply follow the suggestions that craigslist gives you and you will be fine. Craigslist can be a great tool for gadget hunting and selling, but do so with caution. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, is anyone looking for an iMac?