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  • Writer's pictureJeb Brack

I Can Proofread. Canoe?

Or, how a basic knowledge of grammar and spelling alerted me to a scammer.

We have to sell our canoe. Don't want to, but it's big (17') and heavy and the kids don't want to ride in it with us anymore, so it's going to waste behind our garage. Plus we need college money, so I put it on Craigslist. Fine.

Next day I get this email from "Karen Darlene". Itlalics are mine, but the text is faithfully reproduced:

Thanks for the response, am willing to pay the asking price, but due to the schedule of my job because am an Oceanography, i will be paying with check and it will fully clear with you also you are going to receive the cash payment before i make pick up arrangement. for the pickup after payment have been received by you.I don't mind adding an extra $30 for you to keep it for me

I am a freelance proofreader, by which I mean that I correct the spelling and grammar of anything I'm reading, including novels, newspapers, blog posts, cereal boxes and whatever, and I rarely get paid for it. Just reading this email pained me. Run-on sentences, uncapitalized personal pronouns, misuse of commas and use of the passive voice? Oy. No way am I doing business over email with this clown. I write back, stressing that I will only take cash and exchange the canoe face-to-face. I get this:

I have much interest in this goods, i promise i will be honest with you and i'm a responsible man, so i will send the payment by cashier check and pls kindly send your full name, address and your phone number to me and i will arrange for the payment as soon as possible.

Also the Shipping company will come to you for the pick up after you have cash out the check...

I will send the Tracking Number to you once i send the payment for you to know when and time of the delivery.

This beggars belief. "I have much interest in this goods"? Really? Furthermore, "Karen" (if that is your real name), you refer to yourself as "a responsible man". I realize we live in an era when gender boundaries are flexible, and life ain't easy for a man named Karen, but put it on top of your atrocious writing and little alarm bells are going off in my head. I write back, insisting on a face-to-face. To this day, "Karen Darlene, Oceanography" has not responded.

Oh, yeah. Turns out that this email bore all the hallmarks of a Craigslist scam: Offer to pay extra, offer payment by cashier's check (which turns out to be phony, but only after it has already been cashed), and offer to pay shipping (which the scammer bills back to the victim). I checked it out after the fact and there is a whole litany of things to watch for. Best of all, Craigslist warns you to watch out for poor grammar and spelling. In short, proofreading caught this scammer in the act. But I have to warn you, take this advice with a grain of salt. Here is the direct quote from the Craigslist scam warning page:

"Most scams attempts involve one or more of the following:

  • Email or text from someone that is not local to your area.

  • Vague initial inquiry, e.g. asking about "the item." Poor grammar/spelling."

You catch it? "Most scams attempts" should read "Most scam attempts". This warning may in fact be a scam.

Oh, and if anyone wants a canoe, make me an offer, but watch your language.

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