PayPal scam targets Craigslist sellers

PayPal scam targets Craigslist sellers

By Matt Grant. CREATED Apr 13, 2012 - UPDATED: Apr 13, 2012

CAPE CORAL - A new scam is targeting people selling items on Craigslist and it could cost you thousands.

When David Wolek put his 2007 Carolina Skiff fishing boat on Craigslist he didn't expect to get caught on a phishing scam.

"I guess since it's a fishing boat," said Wolek, "they're out phishing for a sucker."

Wolek placed an add offering to sell his boat for just under $16,000. Right away he got a bite from an interested buyer.

"He sent me a message telling me he was very interested," said Wolek. "He wanted it for his father but he was on an oil rig and he couldn't come take a look at it himself."

Emails detail an elaborate scheme designed to steal your money.

The fake buyer urged Wolek to join PayPal - then promised to overpay by $2500 to cover transportation fees. Then the buyer wanted Wolek to wire him back the overpayment.

"That's when it didn't smell right to me," said Wolek, a retired post master from Oklahoma.

The fake seller then sent a fake email pretending to be from PayPal.

"I mean it really looked legitimate," said Wolek.

Of course, it wasn't. The email claimed money had been sent to his account but to release it Wolek would have to wire the scammers back $2500.

"When it got to OK I've gotta pay before I receive the money," said Wolek, "that's a clear indication that something's wrong."

"This is definitely a scam," a PayPal spokesperson told Fox 4. "Online users should always be wary if somebody asks them to wire money especially if it's related to an overpayment."

So how do you know if a PayPal email is legit?

  • PayPal will address you by your first and last name not "Dear Sir."
  • There won't be a false sense of urgency (example: your account is about to be canceled).
  • There won't be any attachments.

Wolek says he received another email, from a woman claiming to be in the Army, with the same scam.

He's still looking to sell his boat. But the only ride he wants to be taken for is out on the water."They rip people off," he said about the scammers, "and it's just aggravating."

PayPal Tips:

  •  Use caution when contacted by people that you don’t know, asking you to engage in a transaction that will not be protected by PayPal Buyer Protection.
  • Find out more about the person you are transacting with by e-mailing them, using eBay’s feedback system, or calling them on the phone to check the validity of their requests.
  • Be highly suspicious of anyone asking you to use Western Union or other wire services to make cash transactions.
  • Be suspicious of deals that seem too good to be true – they usually are.
  • When in doubt about the safety of a transaction, always contact PayPal first via phone, email at or on Twitter at @AskPayPal. 

PayPal info on phishing

Matt Grant