Craigslist merchants: Beware of this Paypal con

News Bulletin contributor

PENSACOLA — If you sell items online, watch out for this con. Scammers are fooling sellers with fake emails that appear to be payment confirmation messages from PayPal.

Paypal scammer look for big-ticket items like vehicles, computers, or furniture for sale on Craigslist, eBay or another online sales site. They then contact sellers, saying they want to buy the item right away, and arrange to meet for the exchange.

When the scammers arrive, however, they don't have cash, and claim to have sent the money through PayPal. The seller checks an email and sure enough, has what appears to be a message from PayPal confirming the transfer.

The scammers may even claim that the transfer is "invisible," and that's why sellers can't see it in their PayPal account.

Of course, there is no such thing as an "invisible" transfer. The scammer didn't send any money, and is just trying to take the item without paying.

Some versions of this scam also have an overpayment twist. In these, the scammer "accidentally" overpays for the item. For example, he or she "sends" a $2,000 payment for an item being sold for $200. Then, he or she requests the seller wire back the difference. By the time they figure out the PayPal transfer was a fake, the scammer is long gone.

How to avoid online scams

●Don't accept checks or money orders: When selling to someone you don't know, it is safer to accept cash or credit card payments.

●Do not accept overpayments: When selling on Craigslist, eBay or similar sites, don't take payments for more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you.

●Always confirm the buyer has paid before handing over the item. Don't take the buyer's word for it.

●Be wary of individuals claiming to be overseas. In many different types of scams, con artists claim to be living abroad to avoid in-person contact. Consider this a red flag.

●Meet sellers/potential buyers in person and in a safe place: Meet in a public area and never invite buyers/sellers into your home. Ask your local police department if they have a "safe lot" program. Even if they don't, suggesting the parking lot or lobby of a police station as a meeting place might be enough to scare off a scammer.

●Read more about selling on eBay, including what to do when sellers don't pay. Also, check out Craigslist's resources about avoiding scams when selling on the site.

To find out more about other scams, go to, or report a scam at