I'd like to state first that I use and rely on Paypal for many different kinds of transactions. Used between people I know (who have existing, stable accounts) and through eBay, it has been a convenient and consistently-useful tool. However, I just sold two cameras and a Blackberry using Craigslist, and the experience was a bad one. For every solid lead, I received at least ten emails from scammers who wanted me to mail the phone / cameras overseas, often including large sums of additional payment for shipping. All of them offered to pay via Paypal.
I've heard of people scamming Craigslist sellers by using Paypal to initiate payment, and then canceling or disputing the payment once the item has been shipped off to West Africa somewhere. The emails persist even though my Craigslist posts state very clearly:
**CASH / LOCAL SALE ONLY**.
One annoying thing is that the scammers often start by writing a single email -- e.g. "Is the item still for sale?" After a response or three, they then state that they are actually buying it for their brother / aunt / co-worker, and that they are out of town, and that they'd like me to mail it to Nigeria. As a general rule, if there is a complicated story behind the reason for the purchase, it is probably a scam.
I've started to ignore those sorts of emails, along with emails exhibiting poor grammar or a total lack of respect. The fragmented OMG / LOL / no-punctuation emails are from the younger generation; I tried responding to one of them, and they guy wanted to come pick up the phone at midnight (with 5 minutes of notice).
Now, I just delete responses when they are even a little bit strange. The sad thing is that some legitimate responses get filtered out, but if it's hard to tell, I probably won't want to meet those folks in person, anyway.
If I feel like putting a *[sic]* after what I've just read, I hit delete.
OK, now for the fun part: examples!
> From: larry Linda
> Hello, Nice to here back from you, I don't have pick up arrangements due to the fact that I'm out of the Country to Athens Greece for a Conference meeting,so you will be shipping the item to my Son in West Africa.I'm buying the item for him as a Gift because he win a scholarship in two days ago and i we be offering you $275 for the item and $100 to cover up the shipping fee down to him at oversea,I will be paying you via PayPal.So kindly get back to me with your Confirmed PayPal e-mail address so that i can transfer the funds into your Account,so you will be shipping the item via the USPS Express Mail Service(EMS) after payment has been done.i will be waiting to here back from you with your paypal account info so that i can send that to paypal online for the instant money transfer.get back to me ASAP...
Here's one with no punctuation. It may be legit, but why take the chance?
> From: sammy lankky Date: August 17, 2009 8:26:24 AM PDT Subject: Blackberry Bold 9000, original box - $270 (SOMA / south beach)
> is this item still available for sale. if yes kindly get back to me ASAP......
And another, with typos and poor grammar:
> From: Manu Dubey Date: August 17, 2009 7:54:31 AM PDT Subject: buy phone
> hi i am intrested to buy this phone. give me your cell number.
No. I refuse.
> From: Allyson Willams
> Hello seller i see your item online i will like to buy it for my brother who as a promotion to NYC i will like to make payment with paypal and i will like to no the item condition and the item total prices.with the shipping cost to him.will can still make the payment via bank to bank transfer.
Bank transfer? No punctuation? No thanks!
> From: Clarence King
> Is your listed item still available for sale?Got some interest.
> From: Clarence King
> Thanks for getting back to me..I really appreciate your response to my earlier mail.like am serious in buying this item so pls do withdraw the advert from Craigslist. I will also like you to know that i will be paying by paypal due to the fact that i will not be able to meet up with the cash and local pick up, you can contact me on this number 18642739289 or email me. so you will be shipping it oversea.I will be adding $200 for the shipping and handling cost... I will need you to provide me with the Your paypal email address so i can send the money to your paypal account.
> Hope to hear back from you.