Chasing scams is a fun gig. It is easy to find scams which are clumsy, such as straightforward pyramids or get-rich-quick schemes.
The key to really busting a scam open is to study it and describe it in great, accurate detail. Even people who immediately see a situation as a rip-off will still enjoying reading about how it works.
And the trick is studying the scams without investing any actual money...not getting scammed.
But that isn't always possible. Sometimes the only way to figure out how a scam works is to wade in with two feet and a bundle of cash.
Luckily, I haven't had to try that yet.
The $3,600 Honda Civic.
Last week spotted a fine deal on Craigslist, a $3,600 2003 Honda Accord 4-door. The lowest price Kelly Blue Book was showing for this model was about $6,500, so I figured something was amiss.
Subject: 2003 Honda : Accord Sedan $3600 (sacramento)
Thanks for replying to my ad. I want you to know the car is in excellent condition with no rust or any kind of damage anywhere and it doesn't need any maintenance. The odometer shows 68,000 miles. I can provide you a Carfax report for the car. Title is clear and free of liens. This 2003 Honda Accord Sedan has an automatic transmission and it's very easy to drive even for a beginner.
Hmm. That seems complicated, and I didn't know eBay had offices in Boise City. "Maybe", I thought, "he has to have a very low price in order to get people to follow through on his complicated billing setup".
No. That didn't make sense. If he could get more money by selling it in person, that is what he would do, and he definitely could get more than $3,600 for his Honda Civic. This was almost definitely a scam of some kind. I wanted to know how it worked.
The car wasn't on eBay. I wrote back.
Is the car on ebay?
Ok. This wasn't getting any better. I've bought two cars off of craigslist and no one ever assured me that the deal was "100% LEGIT". And if the car was in Boise City, what did this have to do with Sacramento Craigslist? And if Ebay was responsible for the delivery, how can this guy be responsible for the delivery?
Ok. I see.
Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to "too good to be true" and leave the mystery at that. Or maybe.. I missed out on a hell of a deal!
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February 24, 2009.