Scammers target Channel 2 News reporter

Internet Fraud, Online Scams. Photo: Thinkstock

Internet Fraud, Online Scams. Photo: Thinkstock

DENVER – Craigslist scammers are targeting sellers to try and get your stuff without paying for it.

Channel 2 News reporter Ashley Michels listed a laptop computer for sale on Craigslist Monday morning. She asked potential buyers to text her. By the afternoon, 12 people had responded to the ad and all of them had very similar stories.

Each buyer wanted to pay immediately through PayPal. Each buyer also wanted the computer shipped out of the country.

“If you’re getting a text message about something you’re selling on Craigslist be very cautious about that,” warned Ray Hutchins of Denver Cyber Security.

Hutchins said scammers are shifting away from phishing scams, which target email, and focusing on “SMiShing” scams instead. SmiShing scams are sent through text messages and are meant to trick the phone user into giving personal information or downloading viruses.

Hutchins looked at the text conversation with one of the potential buyers and recognized several red flags immediately. The buyer offered to pay more money than the item was listed for, he got very pushy and wanted to close the transaction immediately, he wrote in very broken English and asked for the item to be shipped to Nigeria.

One text message read: “how much is total money am send to you now and pls can is the picture of the item now.”

“He’s not speaking usual, normal English. Grammar is wrong. Spelling is wrong,” Hutchins pointed out.

Ashley provided an email address to the buyers so they could deposit money into her PayPal account for the sale. Within a few minutes, emails appearing to be from PayPal showed up in her junk mail folder. All of them turned out to be fake.

Hutchins pointed out many of the same red flags including grammar mistakes and unusual English word usage. One email listed the amount supposedly transferred into Ashley’s PayPal account as “$650.OO”, using the letter “O” in place of two of the zeros.

“They were fake confirmations. It’s so easy to spoof an email. So the only way you can confirm it is by logging in to your PayPal account with your own credentials and looking up there and seeing if it’s happened,” Hutchins said.

Spoofing is when scammers mask phone numbers, emails or website to look like they are legitimate. They use special software to make them look like the real thing.

To be fair, Ashley asked the potential buyer used in this story if he is a scammer. He replied “Am a man of God and also a man of my word.”

She told the person she knew the emails were fake, and the person has not responded since.

You can deposit money to a person’s PayPal account using their email address. Ashley provided an email address to the potential buyer that is not signed up for a PayPal account.

Experts suggest the best way to avoid getting caught in a similar scam is to only deal with local people when buying or selling on Craigslist and only accepting cash.