You want to know what I love? Getting woken up at 5:49 in the morning on a Sunday to my phone ringing off the hook only to find out some con artist is on the other end.
The call came from New Jersey, and I have a lot of very close friends in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I didn't recognize the number and assumed that if it's calling at this hour, it has to be an emergency and could be coming from one of their friends' or relatives' phones. Nope! What I got instead was a man with a very heavy accent calling himself "Murphy Brenna" who was interested in "lessons for his dafter who is ten" (yes, dafter, he must be calling me from the 1700s) that would be three times a week for an hour each, but only for one month. He never specified any kind of lesson. Just lessons.
This was yet another Craigslist scam.
The form is identical to many emails, texts and other contacts I have gotten. A person wants lessons (and in text, it's always spelled as "Lessons" with no reasoning for capitalizing it) multiple times a week, but only for a brief time, and if you reply, they will ask for your address to mail the check to, or just blatantly ask for your account and bank routing number. Before I continue, if anyone ever asks for your bank numbers, just hang up and call the police. There is never a time outside of visiting your bank when somone asking for this information has honest intentions.
What Murphy here wanted was my physical address so he could mail me a check for the lessons in advance. But there was a catch! I had to deposit his check, then withdraw $2000 from it, send it back to him and then he would deposit that $2000 back into my account. This is a basic check scam. The con artist sends you a fraudulent check, you deposit it, do as he says, then after he has the money, the bank should be caught up and realize the check you deposited was fake. The con artist now has money that was taken out of your own account and not his check and he's nowhere to be found by the time the bank alerts you to the theft.
Now, how anyone can fall for something so obviously shady is beyond me, but gullibility is a rampant problem these days. Just how many calls do you average from Rachel at Cardholder Services to lower your interest rates, or David from Super Happy American Solar to give you a $40,000 solar panel that never comes and the phone number they called from doesn't work when you call back? I'm guessing a lot. They wouldn't call you 53 times a day if it didn't work at least a few times.
Every time I advertise my studio on Craigslist I get dozens of these calls or texts. They're all obviously fake: spelling errors on every other letter. Referring to your services as "Lessons" instead of something more realistic like "piano lessons" or a camera you're selling as "the Item for sale". Phone numbers from states hundreds of miles away that you didn't advertise in. Requests to mail what you're selling to yet another state thousands of miles away and you'll be paid after it has been delivered. Using only their escrow services or Western Union to pay for shipping. It goes on.
I hate using Craigslist for this reason, but it's a free way of posting ads in the area that would otherwise cost me hundreds to thousands of dollars in papers that few people read anymore, let alone the ads or classifieds. There is a whole demographic that you'll miss out on by not utilizing the site. And then there's the matter that for every dozen or so scams you get, you get a real customer that you never would have found if it weren't for Craigslist. And as a single man operation, all advertising options are mandatory in order to survive.
Craigslist seriously needs to figure out how to manage scams and spam, but they simply don't care. The site structure is around 20 years old but people still use it, and that's all that matters, even if they are only using it for lack of a better, equally popular, option. Putting a warning about avoiding scams seems to be the best thing they can think of instead of taking a more proactive approach to halting abuse. I mean, this is a website serial killers have used to hunt victims. And you know it's an issue when you Google "Craigslist Killer" and it asks you to specify which one (as of this writing, at least 86 murderers have been linked to using Craigslist to commit their crimes).
But really, if you're going to run a con by me, why does it have to be at 5:49 in the morning!? I work out of my studio Mondays through Fridays. I practice 4 to 6 hours a day on Monday through Saturday. Sunday is my only day off, my only day to sleep in a little and my only day to relax. Why do you have to go and ruin it with a stupid check scam that any clown could spot from miles away?
Regardless, when he asked how much it would cost for his ridiculous request I just told him $24,000 in cash. He called me a slur word and hung up. That's what I did today. And it's only noon.