By David Fleet
Area law enforcement are warning Craigslist users of a scam that’s now close to home.
At 6:25 p.m., Sept. 29, Brandon deputies were dispatched to a Seymour Lake Road residence after a motor vehicle fraud report. The complainant-victim said she had attempted to sell her Jeep on Craigslist. The Craigslist website includes classified advertisements such as jobs, housing and items for sale worldwide.
The victim listed the Jeep on Craigslist in July and on Aug. 3 was contacted by an unknown buyer via text expressing interest in the vehicle.
The suspect advised the victim he lived in Tennessee and purportedly had a supporting area code attached to his phone number.
The suspect offered to pay off the victims loan at the credit union for $23,000 in exchange for the vehicle. The credit union used was not located in Michigan. Almost all communications were via text messages.
The victim said the vehicle was sold to the subject in Tennessee on Aug. 9 and the lien on the vehicle was released by her credit union. On the same day the victim received a text the suspect/buyer was sending a driver to pick up the Jeep at her residence. That evening, a black male described as about 30 years old and 5-feet- 4-inches tall walked from the street up her long driveway where the Jeep was parked in the victim’s driveway. The keys were in the ignition in anticipation of the new alleged owners picking up the car. The suspect then drove off.
On Sept. 29, the victim received communications from her bank that she was being charged a late fee on her monthly automobile payment. After several phone calls with the credit union she learned that shortly after the transaction on Aug. 9, the check for the balance on the Jeep had been canceled via a phone call by the suspect. The Jeep was entered as stolen by law enforcement. The victim discovered the sale didn’t go through and she had defaulted on her loan.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Greg Glover said it’s an ongoing Craigslist scam.
“The first clue of trouble is text messages,” said Glover. “Although texting is common today it’s not always right. Also, it’s never a good idea to come have an unknown buyer come to your home. We suggest completing the transaction in a public place. For township residents come to the front of the Brandon Substation in downtown Ortonville, rather than in front of your home. Stay visible when you don’t know the buyer.”
Area credit unions are suggesting some precautions.
Terry J. Katzur, is the executive vice president at ELGA Credit Union, with a location Goodrich.
“A member can place a stop payment on a personal check at any time prior to it clearing their account,” said Katzur.
“If accepting a check there are a couple of good options to reduce your chances of being scammed. A seller could require a cashier’s check as payment but be aware that these are sometimes counterfeited so you may want to call the issuing institution to verify it is good before accepting it and signing over your title.”
Katzur also suggested a seller can meet the buyer at their financial institution and have the buyers personal check cashed and reissued as a cashier’s check right on the spot before signing over the title to the buyer.
“Requiring cash as payment is one way to avoid being scammed but provides other risks such as safety concerns with carrying around a large amount of cash,” he said.
Accepting a wire directly to your financial institution is another option for receiving payment.
“Once you verify the funds have been deposited into your account you can then sign over your title and let the buyer leave with the vehicle,” he said. “Unfortunately, this option does require giving the buyer your account information so they can give it to their financial institution to originate the wire.”