Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Joseph Lin and the Craigslist PayPal Scam

It was early afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday (cue NFL trademark lawyers) and I decided to post that Craigslist ad for our Yamaha console piano that will not be making the move with us.

Undistracted by the game that wasn't, I was delighted to receive an email response to my ad later that very evening from someone calling himself Joseph Lin, which read:
 I hope you still have the Piano available for sale..? Joseph
Okay, I know spelling and punctuation aren't supposed to count any longer, but I was initially struck by the oddity of the responder's inquiry.  Still available?  The posting was barely dry.  Is there that much demand for Yamaha console pianos that they can expect to be snatched up within hours?  Unlikely I thought.

In any event, I emailed Joseph Lin back from my work email via Craigslist email routing at 5:44 the next morning while waiting to board a flight at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  My email read:
Yes, Joseph.  The piano is still available.  Would you like to see it?
Now you would expect that the next response would be via email and would say something like, "Yes, I would like to take a look at the piano. Where is it located?", right?  That's what I thought.  That was until I received a text message -- yes a text message -- at 6:23 AM presumably from a mobile phone using number (201) 822-5138:

Okay Joseph.  Now you have my attention.  You must really want this piano.  But why text rather than email me back?  And why ask the same question you asked in your initial response through Craigslist when you obviously received my email?  (My cell number is in my work email signature.)  Oddity ## 2 and 3.   My legal practice concentrates in the investigation of insurance fraud, Joseph.  You should have looked me up before texting me and repeating your question.

But when there's what feels like a nibble, sometimes it's best to raise to raise your line slowly to make the fish commit to the bait.  So despite the brashness of Joseph's text messaging, at 6:26 AM I texted back "Yes it is still available."

Nine minutes later I received the reply you can see above and below.

The imperfect punctuation and spelling still suggested a non-native speaker,  and there were Oddity ## 4, 5, 6 and 7:
  • I love my dad, but who buys their dad a $2,500 piano as a surprise gift?
  • The 201 area code suggested Bergen County, NJ, and having grown up there I know that the reference to "New York" means New York City.  Who would pay the cost to move/ship a 500-pound piano more than 400 miles across the state?
  • You're offering me $300 more than the asking price when the body of my ad said that I would also consider best offers?  Who does that?
  • Cordially?  We're now on cordial terms after two emails and text messages?  
With the boarding process having begun but my laptop back in my bag, I used my iPhone to do a quick Internet search of
"joseph lin" paypal craigslist 
The first three search results about say it all, don't they:
I read with interest how the "PayPal scam" works and then sent this text message back to the cordial Joseph Lin at 6:40 AM as I was walking to Gate 7:
Nice try.  Don't contact me again.  I'm reporting your phone number. http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-281-891-3296
And that was the last I heard from Joseph Lin and (201) 822-5138.  Blogger blogs such as this one get pretty good SEO, so I'm posting this on an insurance coverage blog as a warning and resource to others who might be contacted by Joseph Lin or (201) 822-5138 or the like via a Craigslist ad with a PayPal payment and "I'll arrange to pick it up" proposal.  Don't fall for this scam.

And the piano's still for sale.  Cash only please.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this heads up. This was just tried on me by Mr Lin.