More Spam than Scam, but still….

Dodge Dart on Craigslist

We’ve been selling cars and motorbikes recently on CraigsList and have noticed a pattern – someone replies to the ad expressing interest and asking all the right kind of questions, but always include ‘Do you have a VIN report on the {vehicle}?’. A fair enough question, but when you reply in the negative, they quickly reply back with a message something like this:

“If you don’t have one I would appreciate if you could obtain it from bike… They are much more reliable and cheaper than others, such as carfax and autocheck. I am very interested in your ride but I have to check it our first. All the data I need is on the report. If everything is good, I would like to meet you on Sunday if it’s good with you.”

The message is chatty and holds out the hope of a successful purchase, but after getting two or three of these I saw the red flags.

The domain names change but I suspect the underlying organization is the same. If you see this kind of solicitation [on Craigslist], hit the ‘Please flag unwanted messages (spam, scam, other):’ link and maybe these people will start going away.

As I said, not a scam as such, more of a spam solicitation, disguised as a potential buyer and as such, a time waster. If you are interested in getting this information, then the following might help you decide whether the cost is worth it:

The federal government offers VIN checks, free of charge, through the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which provides data on the vehicle’s current state of title and last title date, brand history, odometer reading, total loss history, and salvage history. The VINCheck tool permits five searches within a 24-hour period per IP address. Note that records can take up to six months to appear in the federal database and only show up if the event was recorded by an insurance company. Meanwhile, you can plug the VIN into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database to find out if a vehicle has been recalled.
(excerpt from

So, before you respond to a request like this, strongly suspect that the person is more interested in getting you to sign up for their (possibly) bogus service than buying your ‘1974 Dodge Dart Swinger’!

Update 10 Dec 2017
So another one came just today. If I get this many within the space of two weeks then this must be a bot-operation. Craigslist should be made aware of these spam-soliciations. The text of this one reads:

"Thanks for contacting me back. That bike looks like you maintained it regularly. I would like to find out more about it, however. Do you have history report for it?
Respectfully yours, Amanda Heater"

How do they make blog spam so hard to detect?

Anyone that has visited a blog or forum will have seen those vaguely annoying one line posts that are generally bad grammer and say nothing except what a great blog it is, how they’ll be back soon and to keep up the good work, right?

Well that is so-called ‘Comment Spam’ and it is the bane of website owners like email spam is to, well, just about everyone else!

What they’re doing is embedding a link to a website either in the profile of the user, the ‘sig’ in the post or even inline in the comment. The vain hope is that ubiquity = high search engine ranking. Anyone who owns a forum will tell you that 90% of their time is spent combing comments for trash like this. Services such as Akismet can catch an awful lot of spam, if supported.