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On Craigslist, the price draws you in. It’s these signs that tell you it’s a scam.

A good-condition tent trailer like this for $1,500 would be a good deal, so you want to believe it’s real.
A good-condition tent trailer like this for $1,500 would be a good deal, so you want to believe it’s real. Screen snap from Craigslist

If you are in the market for a toy or vehicle of some kind, you may start with an online classifieds site like Craigslist.

That’s what one Idahoan did when he was looking for a pop-up tent trailer. He responded to two ads on Craigslist and was surprised to get two nearly identical responses.

The first was for what the potential buyer thought was a 2004 travel trailer. The second was for a 2012 tent trailer.

“I’m selling my trailer for $2,300. With a price like that, you might expect it to have some problems, but this trailer is excellent condition — both mechanically and electrically, no damage history,” the first email read.

The second one?

“I’m selling my camper for $1,500. With a price like that, you might expect it to have some problems, but this camper is excellent condition — both mechanically and electrically, no damage history.”

Each response said the seller was selling to pay for treatment for the seller’s mother in ailing health.

Each email said the item for sale was located outside the Boise area.

“The camper is back at her house in Twin Falls, ID. The thing is, right now, I’m not there because I’m a Special Needs Nurse — I just got a job with the State of ID,” it read. The second email replaced the Idaho references with Oregon ones.

These were classic baits for a scam. If the buyer were to respond, he would be asked to send money for delivery of the trailer. Then there would be more requests for funds for any number of reasons.

Instead of responding, though, the buyer forwarded the emails to the Boise Police Department. Ed Fritz of BPD sent them to the Better Business Bureau, warning that scammers will target seasonal purchases, like a camping trailer.

“Possible scams like this could happen with any number of expensive warm-weather toys for sale on Craigslist or other online sales sites this time of year,” Fritz said. “To help others from falling victim, be sure to flag the post as ‘prohibited’ and email Craigslist to report the scam.”

One of the first red flags of this scam was the very low prices advertised for both trailers. Anytime you see something that’s much less than what other sellers are asking, be exceptionally cautious.

Fritz did some research into the scam posts and found one of them had stolen the photos and details of a real trailer for sale in Ohio. The scammer had simply copied and pasted pictures and specs into an email to the buyer. If you come across an item, rental or another online posting that seems off, take the time to do a web search. If it comes up in another city, odds are that it’s a scam.

Boise police and the BBB suggest these tips when buying and selling online:

▪  Deal locally and face-to-face with the seller.

▪  Be wary of sales asking you to pay in advance.

▪  Avoid wire transfers, cashier’s checks and money orders.

▪  Never give out personal financial information and avoid oversharing other personal information.

▪  Research the seller, the sale and the pictures.

▪  Trust your instincts.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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