2018 was a busy year for me. I got a new job. And a new car. And a boyfriend. A lot of people got married. I did some freelance work. I even started a book club. I meant to write 100 blog posts that I never finished writing, but this is one that I am fully committed to finishing. It’s a story about trying to overcome possibly the biggest sale I needed to make: the sale of my first car. (That was also a blog post I wanted to write: a proper sendoff to my first car. Despite the boat-likeness of it and its tendency to give up on the whole driving thing, I have a soft spot for Taurus.) I wanted him to go to a good home.
So, like the good marketer that I am, I put on the best face I could. I cleaned out my car (you’re welcome Goodwill for the lunchbox and star costume). Then I vacuumed it (the first time in four years that has happened) and snapped as many pictures of it as I could. I wanted to do an honest job too, so I took some shots of the dents, scuffs and scratches to show that it was well-worn and well-loved.
Then I uploaded the pictures onto Facebook and NextDoor. And then I waited. Several days passed and I had no hits, barely even a like, so I uploaded it onto Craigslist.
Within two hours, someone reached out to me about the car. He wanted to buy it for his son, but he was on duty for the military in Georgia, so he needed someone to pick up the car for him. He was willing to pay via PayPal, let it clear and and then arrange for the car to be picked up. He asked a few additional questions about the state of the car, current conditions and why I was selling it. Seemed legit.
I smiled. I was working myself up over trying to sell and car, and look how easy it was! Just a quick post, and someone is willing to buy it! I was smirking, internally mocking everyone who said no one would buy my car.
But then it sunk in for a moment. Someone wanted to buy my car. Totally online. Without ever even seeing it or driving it. That seemed weird. I mean, I’m hesitant to want to buy pants online, let alone a heavily worn, thousand-dollar car purchase.
I called my dad and asked him what the risks were. He, too, thought it was a bit odd. Why is this guy buying a beat-up Ford Taurus for his son as a surprise? That’s not that fun of a surprise. Plus, if he wants to buy his son a beat-up Ford Taurus, surely there were plenty closer than the 4+ hours that his son was from Richmond.
I stalled a bit on responding to the man, trying to keep it cordial as my dad and mom did some research. It seemed off, but HOW was this a scam? He was going to send me the money.
My mom and dad then found it. Someone online in the PayPayl community had the exact experience] where someone in the military wants to buy their son a car.
The basic scam would be: he pays, it clears. I do get paid. He claims he never got it — or that it was severely damaged / not as promised — and then I lose the car and the money. I struggled with feeling bad for not responding to his text, despite the realization that he’s a scammer, and then blocked him immediately.
The very next day, I went to CarMax and took a measly $500 for my car, scam free. I was entirely scarred from the experience. Not only was I THIIIS close to getting scammed, but it felt like a personal attack. My brother and a large contingent of other people in my family serve(d) in the Navy, so scammers using the travel military excuse to scam people just really gutted me. On top of that, I like the story about a dad that wants to do something surprising and fun for their son. Why did he have to ruin that for me?
I just take it hard that humans aren’t always kind to one another. Please be kind to each other. And please don’t fall for this PayPal car scam.