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A Craigslist Scam? Buyer Overpaid for my Item

I have sold quite a few things over the years on Craigslist. It’s a great way to sell things without any fees. But Craigslist scammers are like vultures over the latest road kill. They are quick to pounce on new ads.

Enter John Werthman (not his real name, I’m sure). But I am listing this name, John Werthmann, in case he continues to use it so that people who might google his name will find this post and quickly know it’s the alias for a scammer.

The Story of an Attempted Scam

So the other day, my wife and I decided to sell a moped that her son had decided he didn’t want. I created a post on Craigslist with pics and all the details. I don’t always post my cell phone number on ads but this one was worthy of the added risk.

Within 30 minutes, my phone started getting the usual spam that asked me to email a (bogus) personal email address rather than reply to their text. I always ignore those text messages. Craigslist has a helpful page about avoiding scams, and regular users of Craigslist know that real people don’t text you and then immediately ask you to send a message to their personal email address. And real people who want to use email to communicate will use the reply feature that is built into Craigslist, which provides protection and anonymity.

Stage 1: Develop Some Trust

But the next scammer was pretty savvy. He starts asking some of the common questions that a real person might ask, like why are you selling? And, do you have the title? I’m including the first screen of text messages, along with the phone number (757-551-6865) used by the scammer. His area code was in my same state, so I figured it was potentially legit.

But having someone immediately ask about electronic payment like he did? Without even seeing the item in person? Yeah, red flag.

The next red flag was saying he would schedule a hauler to pick up the moped, sight unseen. I wanted to see how this would play out, so I played along as he asked for our email address to send the PayPal payment to.

Stage 2: Launch the Scam

After sending a test email and asking if we got it, he says he’s ready to go ahead and send payment. He also requests that I take down my ad since he’s committed to buying.

Of course, I know that if he *truly* sends payment via PayPal, we can check the legitimate PayPal site for confirmation of funds. And once someone has sent payment, they cannot reverse or retract that payment. While it is possible to file a dispute with PayPal when you believe you were cheated, etc., PayPal (in our experience) is very reluctant to reverse any PayPal payment.

Stage 3: Collect the Cash

Within a few minutes of his last message, we get an email purportedly from PayPal (but really from the scammer) saying that John Werthmann sent you $2500.00 USD. The ruse is that the monies from PayPal are supposedly on hold, and we (the seller) have to go buy gift cards in the amount of $600, then take pictures of those gift cards (with their pin codes) and send that to “PayPal” (to the scammer).

Here’s the text of the email with the scammer’s instructions:

PayPal Safety Procedures On How To Complete This Pending Transaction.

As mentioned in the receipt of Payment and as per the New PayPal Payment policy, we have fully debited the total amount of $2,500.00 USD from John Werthmann’s account which includes the buyer’s shipper’s delivery and pickup service fee. The transport company requested a full payment from us because many people don’t pay the exact amount the buyer included in the payment after their account has been credited.

A hold has been placed on this transaction for the fact that this payment has been subjected to be a payment for the MERCHANDISE purchased from you, we reserve the right to make sure this transaction is safe and secured, also verify the legitimacy level on this transaction because of the high sum of funds involved.
The money has been put on hold due to
the New PayPal Payment policy, to protect both buyer and seller interest from any kind of scam.  PayPal in cooperation with the FBI and the IFCC and eBay’s Purchase Protection invented this measure to ensure the safety of this transaction and for your safety of the seller, the buyer’s account has been suspended until your account is credited.

To complete this transaction and get the funds released to your account, we implore you to go to any stores or Walgreens store with cash and get an eBay Gift Card worth $600.00 in $100 or $200 denomination that was included in the Payment upfront to the Pickup. Online eBay Gift Card Transfer may be subject to further delay or additional restrictions so we advise you to go to any stores and get this done.
Once you have the eBay Gift Card with you kindly make sure it’s been activated at the store before leaving and have the activation receipt from the cashier. 

Your account will be credited with  ($2,500.00USD) after 10 minutes of emailing us the picture of the back PIN CODE  of the eBay Gift Cards to which you will log in into your PayPal account and the money will be visible and available for withdrawal.

I’d love to believe that nobody falls for this sort of scam. But unfortunately, people continue to become victims of ploys like this which keep these criminals in business.


  1. Amanda Tello

    This pos just tried to get my son who’s in the Army but the mama bear in me wasn’t about to let my kid get scammed! I’m so mad right now! Exact same scenario as he was selling his motorcycle bc he’s deploying soon. How dare you !! Shame on you and told my son his son was in the Army too and he wanted the bike for his own son. What a piece of garbage !

  2. John Werthmann

    Hi. This is John Werthmann. I’m embarrassed to say I sent these crooks pics of my license and base ID when we were starting to arrange shipping of my car to them. They really played the part of a very cautious buyer that was concerned that I was a scammer, so I fell for it. As soon as I saw the bogus PayPal email and ridiculous request for gift card payments I was out. But the damage of sending him pics of my ID’s was done. Although there was nothing in them he could use to steal my identity from a credit perspective, he is using it to scam people. I talked to a detective with my local police department and he said there was nothing they could do since these scum were very likely using burner phones to communicate with people. However, I’m going to re-engage with them. A number of people have looked me up via Facebook or Linked in and I’ve told them it’s a scam but I’ll never know how many people fell for it. Hopefully very few.

    • Jason E

      Hi John, Unfortunately they are still using your identity to try and rip people off. I’m not dumb enough to fall for the over-payment part of the scam. But I wasted about 3 hours last night taking photos, texting back and forth, etc. I just sent you a linkedin request, but you can ignore it if you want. I feel for you! Sorry that happened. I’m in Aurora, CO by the way.

  3. Sandi V

    This just happened to me as well. We listed a scooter and I was supposed to get a Vanilla pre-paid debit card for $1000 to cover the hauler. $4000 would be on hold in my paypal. I had never run in to this before so decided to do some investigating before even answering the latest email, and guess what? I found this site!!! Still using John Werthmann with phone # of 757-758-5507, which he can’t make calls from…? Anyhow, thanks for posting so I wasn’t a recent victim.

  4. Karla

    Yes the scammer is trying to do the same thing to me right now here in Colorado
    He is trying to scam me somehow wanting to buy my truck using Venmo and sending a hauler to pick up. The number he is using right now is 7207397548

  5. James

    Same scam as Karla above, trying to buy my truck using Paypal/Venmo and send a hauler. Told me his son lived in Fort Collins, but wouldn’t send his son to come pick up the truck. Using phone# 720-739-7548

  6. Andrew Brannan

    Yep this pos tried the same thing with me here in Colorado yesterday. He used the name John Werthamann and had a phone number starting with (720) which is local but then sent pictures of “him” holding an Ohio ID??? (Why do you have a local area code for CO when you’re in Ohio?) He claimed he had a son in Ft. Collins that he was buying my car for as a surprise. He sent some typical and reasonable text questions followed by wanting to switch to email which was another red flag. Just like with everyone else he said he was using a transporter to take the car to his son??? Why not just have your son pick it up…. red flag. Then I get some fake messages from venmo saying “John” included an additional $1000 to the payment. I was to follow some instructions which included going to a Walgreens and buying a $1000 Vanilla debit card. I was instructed to make sure the card was activated and email the fake venmo email address all the codes on the card. (You’re trying to tell me I need to front money to receive payment on something I’m SELLING??? ….. huge red flag) This is where I told John I knew he was scumbag scammer and the conversation was over. I block his number and his email and the fake venmo emails.

    I really hope this pos criminal hasn’t had any success doing this but the fact that it’s still going on tells me it must work every once in a while. You shouldn’t ever need to front and SPEND MONEY in an effort TO SELL something. Hopefully this is helpful for people and keeps this scammer from being successful.

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