Friday, June 15, 2007

Fraudulent Transactions and CraigsList

It's a shame that we live in a fallen world in which sin seems to taint every good thing we do.

Take CraigsList, for example. Unless you live in one of the few areas of the country where the company charges people for advertising, CraigsList is a great way to get your message out for little or no cost.

The company itself probably isn't to blame for the fact that its economic model makes it an appealing hangout for scammers. But the scammers are there nevertheless.

Some of the scammers are advertisers. But what seems to be more common is people who scan the ads run by CraigsList in order to locate potential victims for various scams, almost all of which involve money in some way.

Earlier, I discovered that placing an ad in the CraigsList Personal section made me vulnerable to a person (or group of people) claiming to be a young Russian woman named Valentina. Initially, the letters I got seemed to be fairly plausible. The broken English even added to the charm of those letters, to some extent. But it also caused me to let down my guard It probably prevented me from recognizing immediately that there was something very fishy about the whole thing.

Fortunately, by the time the scammer was ready to make a play for my money, I'd already become sufficiently suspicious (and sufficiently knowledgeable) that I was completely unwilling to surrender any money to that person. Not that I'd have had much money to surrender, even if I had wanted and chosen to do so. Nevertheless, it was annoying to have spent all of that time engaging in e-mail correspondence and online research, only to learn that initial appearances had been deceiving.

Just this week, I ran another type of ad on CraigsList. I was looking for people who might be interested in paying me to teach them how to create pen & ink portraits similar to the ones I knew how to create.

I received a reply from someone claiming to want to pay me to teach his son how to create such portraits. Based on preliminary discussions, it seemed possible that I could make more than $400 by teaching that person's son during the month of July. That sounded good. But there were aspects of the initial letters which raised a red flag in my mind. Then I received a new message from that person. Suspicions mutated into certainties with regard to the illegitimate nature of what was being offered to me.

It's a shame. I could have used the money from that teaching gig. But I'm not going to stop running the aforementioned ad. It is possible to make money via CraigsList, provided that one remains cautious and vigilant at all times.

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