RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Craigslist is an online community used to connect with others to find what you're looking for. But someone used the website to trick Charletha Patterson into not just giving them her laptop for free, but on her dime.
"The laptop is gone," said Charletha. "I've called USPS service and there's nothing they can do but maybe give me $100 insurance on it."
It all started when Charletha listed her laptop for sale on craigslist. Almost instantly she got an offer that seemed too good to refuse. The buyer offered more than she was asking for as long as she shipped it immediately to their Nigerian address. After receiving what looked like a payment from PayPal, she did as she was told paying for the shipping out of pocket.
"I went to the post office before 5 and I sent it to them international express mail like they said," said Charletha. "They said they'd give me an extra $150 to ship it. Later on when I got the tracking number and I started e-mailing them back. I started getting account unknown and e-mail sent back."
After contacting PayPal directly, she was told the e-mail was a fake. Unfortunately, not even the post office could help her because her package had already made its way overseas.
"Ask yourself...why would I send it to Nigeria?" said Consumer Services expert, Elaine Lidholm. "And why would someone buy a computer sight unseen and be willing to offer me that much more."
Lidholm sees a number of red flags in this case that proves to her this was not a legit transaction from the beginning. If you're using an online source to conduct business there are certain things to look out for.
"It sounds to me like this is a rather sophisticated form of a phishing scheme and a Nigerian letter," said Lidholm.
It's best when accepting money through online companies, to wait and make sure the money has posted to your bank account. You can even call the money wiring company to ensure the transaction is legit as well.
"Craigslist is basically an online yard sale, so there are no guarantees," said Lidholm.
Unfortunately in Charletha's case she's out of a laptop and the money from the sale she desperately needed.
"I sold it so quickly because I needed to pay my rent in a hurry and I still haven't paid my rent yet," said Charletha.
She hopes other people will think twice before getting to excited about something that's just too good to be true.