Posted by: Jerry Garrett | August 8, 2011

New Craigslist Scam: The Change of Address

LAS VEGAS, Nevada

Recently a family member contacted someone who was selling a “like new” mattress on the Las Vegas Craigslist site. It seemed like a good deal, and the seller purported to live in an upscale area of town. The picture of it made it look like a new mattress.

The family member emailed the seller and made arrangements to go and see the mattress (noon, on a weekday). I decided to tag along.

About five minutes before the agreed-upon meeting time, the seller called the family member’s cell phone (the number of which she had provided at the seller’s request) and said, “I’m not home. But my housekeeper has agreed to show it to you. She lives just around the corner. Let me give you her address.”

We were nearly in the original neighborhood – which was a nice area – so we pulled over to re-program the car’s navigation system. Far from being “just around the corner” the new address was more than four miles away from the original address.

Since we had already invested some time and effort, we decided to go to the new address. But it seemed odd that the mattress had so abruptly and quickly moved four miles across town.

It was in a very different sort of neighborhood – the kind you probably would not venture into alone – especially after dark. At the address we were given, a woman in a ratty green, black and red bathrobe was out front, running water from a garden hose over some rocks. (Why do rocks need to be watered?) A large man in a muscle shirt and sweat pants came out of the house, opened the garage and showed the mattress. It was ripped, stained, smelly and disgusting.

“It was just some Coke that was spilled on,” the man said.

We left.

It occurred to me that this was probably a scam – but a scam to accomplish what? If it was to lure someone into a bad neighborhood, who might be brow-beaten into buying a crappy mattress, that might be one thing. But if it was a scam to lure a woman alone into a bad neighborhood, under false pretenses, that was cause for serious concern and alarm.

Theoretically, if the family member had gone alone – and something went wrong – we would only know of the original address she had been going to. The bait-and-switch address would have been known only to her, and we would have had a much more difficult time, trying to figure out where she had gone.

There’s a lot of trust required in dealing with people on Craigslist. Craiglist is supposed to be monitoring scams, and seeking tips from people who encounter them. But we had a difficult time reporting the seller. We finally just checked a box on the listing that said “Prohibited”, which is sort of an umbrella category covering anything that the seller might have been doing that we judged to be against Craigslist’s rules and regulations. To have reported more specifically to Craigslist our concerns would have required a lot more digging into their customer service menus than we were able to do.

The web site should make it easier and be more vigilant in trying to root out scams like this. The consequences in not doing so could be grave.

If you encounter this scam, don’t fall for it.

Jerry Garrett

August 8, 2011

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