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Frank Gray

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Angola boat owner beats Craigslist con

It seems there’s a new twist on an old scam taking place on Craigslist.

The story starts with a man named Jack Palmershime, who was trying to sell an old motorboat, located in Angola, on Craigslist for $1,800.

Palmershime got what seemed to be a serious bite on Thursday morning from someone claiming to be in Colorado. Communicating by email, the supposed buyer announced very quickly that he wanted to buy the boat and would transfer the purchase price plus $780 for shipping and other fees to Palmershime’s PayPal account.

Palmershime then got emails supposedly from PayPal, telling him there was $2,580 in his account and instructing him to go to Walmart and send $680 by Western Union Money Transfer to someone in New York who would pick up the boat and deliver it.

It all sounded a little strange. Why would a person in Colorado buy a boat in Indiana and hire someone in New York to bring it to them?

So Palmershime didn’t respond, and with good reason. He doesn’t have a PayPal account, so there is no way the supposed buyer could have transferred any money to him. Besides, PayPal itself warns its users never to wire money to anyone.

So what does a scammer do when their scam falls apart? Well, he starts sending all kinds of threatening messages.

Within hours of his offer to buy the boat the scammer started demanding to know why Palmershime wasn’t responding.

He accused him of being a scammer himself.

Later the scammer said he had tracked down Palmershime’s address using GPS, and he promised to pursue him mercilessly.

By Friday the scammer was vowing to take legal action, and on Sunday he announced that police would come to his home on Monday morning and he would be arrested.

Palmershime was tempted to email the scammer back with some fine response, but he decided the best thing to do was just ignore the scammer and let him go away.

This latest scam is a variation on an old con in which a bogus buyer would send a phony check to purchase an item, but include extra money and ask the seller to wire the excess money to someone else, supposedly to pay them to pick up and deliver the item.

These days, though, it’s all being done with a computer and telephone.

The danger in this scam is that someone who does have a PayPal account could get hoodwinked by this scam, thinking they have actually been paid for an item and be cowed by a con artist’s threats and wire money to a shipper, agent or other party.

It helps to remember that when people buy big items like cars or boats, it’s up to them to find and pay their own shipper.

As for those threats to hunt you down, take legal action or have you arrested, con artists usually operate out of the country, and they’ll never hunt you down in person anyway.

They’re too busy running scams.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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