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Paypal System is Down

How the scam works:

While Craigslist contains many legitimate ads, there are always scammers using the site to make a quick buck (or a thousand) by taking advantage of their victims’ trusting nature. One such scam is currently circulating on the site, known as the System is Down Scam.

It begins with the victim posting a high-dollar item for sale. The scammer will contact the seller and proceed to develop an amiable discussion about the item for sale, first by email and then by text message. This is key.

Once the scammer has gained the trust of their victim, they will commit to purchasing the item through PayPal. The victims usually think that since PayPal is a reputable business it should not be a problem to get the transaction done, and they agree.

When the time to pay comes, the scammer contacts the seller and tells them that PayPal’s system is down or that his network is not available at the moment. Banking on the trust he has built with the victim, he requests that the victim sends the item via a parcel service since he is in a hurry and has a great need to get the item as quickly as possible. Often crooks will request the seller to overnight the item to them. 

Once the victims send the item they never receive payment for the item sent. They are also out the price of overnight mailing the item, which depending on weight can be an exorbitant amount in itself. When they try to contact the buyer, the phone number (probably of a throwaway cell phone) is no longer in service, and they often find out the shipping address is for a generic mailbox service.

How to avoid:

First and foremost, never ship an item to a buyer until you have been paid for the item and the money is truly in your bank account. Don’t accept checks either, and if you do, do not release the item to the buyer until the check has cleared both your bank and the buyer’s bank. Many sellers on Craigslist are opting to only sell their items locally and will only accept cash; this is the best way to protect yourself. However, when doing so, never give the buyer your home address.  Meet in a public place to exchange the item for cash. Free enterprise on the internet is a great thing; just beware of scammers who will often go at great lengths to get something for nothing.

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