Contact 2 – Scammers rip-off local woman with phony RV ad

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - Here's another reminder to be careful when buying things on Craigslist.

“We were initially very skeptical to let people know because it’s so embarrassing,” said Margaret Grapperhaus. “You’re the victim and you don’t want anyone to know.”

It’s not easy for Grapperhaus to share this story, but she’s doing it to help others.

“If it can stop one person, if it keeps a few of our hard-earned dollars out of these thieves’ hands, then maybe it was worth something,” she said.

A few months ago, she was looking for a decently priced RV on Craigslist when she came across an ad for a camper. Margaret thought $2,000 was a fair offer and began emailing with the seller. The seller’s plan was to complete the transaction through eBay Motors. She told Grapperhaus this was to protect the consumer.

“You give your money to eBay Motors. They hold it while you’re able to inspect the vehicle. Then you either call and release the funds, or you call and say, ‘No, I don’t want this,’ and they give you the funds back,” she said.

It seemed fair and easy, so Grapperhaus took the next step.

“I went to Walgreens and purchased the gift cards, came home, called, gave the pin numbers, and then I waited. Probably within two hours I had not heard from the seller,” Grapperhaus said.

Grapperhaus still hasn’t heard from the seller and likely never will. She got scammed. eBay Motors was used as a disguise to make it all seem legitimate. Despite her best efforts to stop the transaction, it was too late.

“The frustration is I always do my homework and I didn’t do it this time," she said.

Chris Thetford from the Better Business Bureau said this is a new take on a common scam.

“With email and with sending us to other websites in order to communicate and having us pay them in ways that feel comfortable and good, it makes it easy for us to believe that it’s going to be okay and we’re not being taken advantage of,” Thetford said.

“There were lots of red flags I should’ve caught and I didn’t. The bigger frustration is no one can help,” Grapperhaus said.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim in a similar situation. First off, pay close attention to the ad and any correspondence with the seller. If they’re trying to talk you into using a particular method of payment for what they say is your protection, be suspicious. Secondly and most important: Never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers, or money card numbers, to someone you do not know.