Trailers bait in online scam

SNELLVILLE -- A Snellville woman is accused of baiting Craigslist users into wiring more than $40,000 for horse trailers that never existed.

Police believe Maureen Crosson, 45, used the popular online classified ad post to bilk victims as far flung as Illinois, Montana and Texas.

Crosson reportedly suckered victims into wiring a total between $40,000 and $50,000 to her business checking account, Seysha Investments of Snellville, promising advertised horse trailers in return. Two transactions listed in Crosson's arrest warrants are for sums of $8,900 and $9,200.

"Within days, she would withdraw the money from the account and, of course, no horse trailer would arrive," a Gwinnett police investigator wrote in an e-mail.

Crosson was arrested on related charges in Dawson County on July 6, where she remains without bond.

Gwinnett police have charged her with two counts of felony theft by deception and are hoping for more once she's extradited here for interviews, the investigator said.

Fred Elsberry, Atlanta Better Business Bureau president, said the allegations fit the blueprint for most financial crimes involving Craigslist.

"One of the red flags we always tell people to look for is folks who want them to wire money, as opposed to paying in more traditional ways or with a credit card," Elsberry said. "That's like giving cash to someone you don't know."

Elsberry warns Craigslist users to be wary of sellers who communicate only by e-mail, thereby masking their location. He advises shoppers to deal with local sellers whom they can meet in person.

Similar scams in metro Atlanta have used phony real estate and used cars as bait, he said.

Craigslist representatives did not return an e-mail inquiry Thursday afternoon. Online personal safety tips posted by the site echo much of Elsberry's advice, warning consumers that any seller guaranteeing a transaction is likely a shyster.

The site claims 50 million users in the United States alone.

Craigslist officials recommend that users report scams to the Federal Trade Commission's hotline at 877-FTC-HELP.