Roger Grimes tracked down a Craigslist scammer and interviewed him for Infoworld, getting some surprisingly frank answers about what life is like as a small time online con-artist.
The scammer, who wouldn't reveal his location, says that more than half of what he earns goes to intermediaries. He doesn't elaborate on who these are, but says that they've been demanding ever-greater cuts of his scores, which have been getting smaller over the years. There's a parallel to other kinds of online businesses, from music streaming to publishing -- as the years go by, a smaller number of ever-more-powerful middlemen are taking ever-greater cuts from the people around the edges.
The scammer struggles with English; he dropped out of high school early and relies on his girlfriend to proofread his correspondence with his marks. His biggest surprise is that the same cons work now as worked in years gone by -- that word isn't getting around about the kinds of things he does.
Are you worried about police or getting arrested?
No. I’ve gotten money from policemen and bank workers. Doctors, lawyers, universities, store owners, all of them. They don’t know me and they can never catch me. No one ever gets caught. And if I ever got caught I would pay money and walk away. That is the way of the world.
How much longer do you think you can keep doing this line of business?
It’s hard and not regular. I want a good paying, regular job. I have other small jobs, but this is too good not to do it. I don’t make enough to stop working or doing other things. I’ll probably continue as long as I can, make some decent money, and stop when I stop making money or get a better job.
Any parting words or advice for my readers?
It’s getting harder for business people like me to be successful, but if they [the victims] follow the rules it would be very hard for me to be successful. That’s one of the surprises. My friends and I thought we would not be successful for so long, especially with how Craigslist is different now. But there is always someone looking to sell something who doesn’t know the game.
Interview with a Craigslist scammer
[Roger A. Grimes/Infoworld]