Craigslist PayPal prepayment scam… how does it work?

Philip Greenspun's Weblog 2013-04-29

One thing that is great about the Internet is that it makes it possible to connect simultaneously with all of the world’s criminals. I am trying to get rid of a batch of kitchen appliances and posted a Craigslist ad. “Kathy White” responded with the following:

Hi, Thanks for the mail.. i will be paying you via  PayPal, don’t worry about the pick up, the pick up agent will be coming to pick it up immediately your account is credited…..send me your PayPal invoice to so that i can pay in.


Plainly this is not someone who learned English in the U.S. And plainly a non-criminal would not want offer to pay $1000 into a PayPal account based on viewing an anonymous Craigslist ad. How would the payer even know that these appliances exist?

So let’s assume that this email is from Nigeria and that “Kathy White” is not going to be coming to pick up my stylish-but-hated Bosch dishwasher and its GE brethren. How then can she possibly profit from putting $1000 into my PayPal account? She won’t get the appliances. If she arranges a refund from PayPal it will be for the $1000 that she sent me.