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Man loses $2,500 to Craigslist used car scam

Posted: 11:01 AM, Jan 27, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-27 12:01:19-05

Many of us put used items up for sale on Craigslist, hoping to find a buyer.

One man did just that with his car. But instead of making some money, he just lost more than $2,000.

Harry Harphant is trying to sell his 2001 Honda Prelude for $3,000.    

So he did what many of us did, taking out an ad on Craigslist.

"A man named Bruce Michaels contacted me by text, and asked if the car was still available," he said. "I told him it was."

The potential buyer said -- in a string of text messages -- that he was in South Carolina, and was very interested in buying the car, and having it shipped to him.

So the buyer agreed to send a check for $5,000, to cover the price of the car, plus shipping.

"He said he would send me a check for $5,450, of which $2,450 of that would go back for shipping," he said.

When the check showed up, Harphant says he deposited it into his bank account, waited a couple of days to make sure it cleared, then wired $2,400 to who he thought was the shipper.

Check Bounces, Money Gone

Harphant says everything looked great until he logged onto his account the next day, and discovered the check had bounced.

"My bank said the funds were no good, everything bounced at that point," he said.

He's now out $2,400 dollars,  plus was hit with another $130 in all the overdraft fees that resulted.

How to Protect Yourself

This can happen when you are selling or even buying on Craigslist.

So our advice:

  • When using Craiglist, deal with local people only, who you can meet in person.
  • Never, ever accept a check for more than an item is worth.
  • Never wire anyone money for "shipping," legal fees, or anything else.

Harphant's family has lost a year's worth of savings.

"I have got two kids at the house, and it doesn't take it just out of my hands, it also takes it out of their mouths," he said.
    
One small bit of consolation: After we got involved, his bank agreed to refund the $130 in overdraft fees he incurred.

But there is no way of ever recovering money wired to a scammer.

So know the warning signs of a rip-off, so you don't waste your money.

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Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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