I am sad to report that internet scams have infiltrated our otherwise peaceful yurt community. I received two phone calls recently just a few moments apart that were eerily similar. The first call was from a firefighter in Arizona that wanted to clarify (and verify) a Rainier Yurt for sale on Craigslist. He was a married father of two and I am sure that the $500 deposit he sent the seller could have been put to better use this holiday season. The second caller, from Colorado, said he had a bad feeling that he’d just been scammed. I then asked him to send me a link to the Craigslist add. Right off the bat I saw inconsistencies with the grammar and word usage. For one thing a yurt is usually crated not “canned” and it then is considered packed not “parked.” The term “I’m in dire need of money” precedes “urgently to help a friend undergoing Cancer Chemotherapy.” Immediately, red flags flashed in front of my eyes!
Another red flag is the asking price! $3500 is ridiculously low for a 30 foot diameter Rainier yurt. I could tell the yurt pictured wasn’t really a Rainier yurt. In fact, two of the three photos aren’t even yurt related. A pile of lumber – that could from anything! The second caller had deposited $1800 into the seller’s bank account in Virginia. So we have a yurt in Arizona, someone named Derrick Briggs (that’s the name the seller gave) who speaks very softly and with a heavy foreign accent, with a bank in Virginia and a Northern California area code … all red flags!
The second yurt that the seller was peddling was reportedly his neighbor’s, also in Arizona. It would be really rare to have two neighboring yurts in Flagstaff, AZ for sale at the same time. The second yurt had pictures, too. One of the pictures is of our Raven showroom in Seattle. The rest of the pictures were all from our website. There were two different photos of kitchens in the ad – two different kitchens in the same yurt! I think that’s when caller #2 looked us up online and gave me a call.
Last week, I got a call from a sweet man who was purchasing a Rainier Eagle Yurt on Craigslist and wanted to know if I could help him assess the value. He forwarded the post to me and I knew immediately it was a competitor’s yurt. Rainier Eagle yurts have two tone walls and a different shape dome. When he called me back to thank me for saving him from a costly mistake, he told me how sheepish the seller was when he pointed out that The Yurt Girl at Rainier confirmed that it was NOT a Rainier Eagle. He purchased the yurt for a couple of thousand less than the asking price.
As an ambassador to all yurt dwellers and want-to-be yurt dwellers, here are a few tips on how not to get scammed while purchasing a yurt online:
- On the phone, verify that it is a Rainier Yurt. Ask what model it is (don’t offer the words “Eagle” or “Raven” – make them come up with the proper wording.) Ask for a picture of rafters that proudly have a Rainier logo on each rafter. If they can’t produce that, or paperwork saying it’s from Rainier … Run!
- Deal locally! Only do face-to-face transactions. As it states on the Craigslist page on how to avoid scams: “Follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.”
- Look for weird or inconsistent verbiage. Wording that looks weird is often someone in another country trying to use a translation program to write the ad. They don’t realize that it is coming across improper – but you should recognize it.
- The price is ridiculously low – too good to be true! It’s such a good deal you are willing to break rules 1 through 3.
- Be aware of offers that involve shipping – deal with only people you know and trust or can meet in person.
- Do not purchase a yurt sight-unseen. A ten year old yurt can be in excellent condition or be a wreck!
- Ask how old the yurt is, what model, size, features including insulation and dome options. If they have to get back to you, they are bluffing! You know what year, make and model your car is don’t you? Well, you would know the answer to these simple questions if you were the rightful owner.
- Be suspicious if the phone is associated with one state, the yurt is in another and the bank is across the country.
- NEVER wire transfer or direct deposit funds into a stranger’s account. You will never see it again. Even if you go to your bank and report a fraudulent transaction, they have already taken the money and ran and the bank isn’t going to give you a dime of their money! That’s for sure!
Let’s talk about ways to make sure you are getting what you pay for when buying a second hand Rainier Eagle or Raven yurt. Here are questions you should ask:
- Where is the yurt located? Can I come take a look at it in person? Caller #2, once he got suspicious asked if he could send a friend to come by and inspect the yurt. The scammer said, “sure” and gave him the address. Caller #2 then called the Flagstaff Police Department and told them the situation and they drove by to confirm, there was no yurt there. Unfortunately, this was after the $1800 direct deposit had already been made.
- What model, size, upgrades and color is it? You can quickly do your own investigation on our website. If the color is rose quartz, sorry pal … not a Rainier Raven.
- How did you come up with the price? Generally the age, condition, upgrades, and extras (are the platform and wood stove included?) weigh heavily into this equation.
- Go to our online price calculator and configure a duplicate yurt with the information you gained in your first conversation. As a rule of thumb take the value off of our price calculator (in our example it’s $26,000), then take the age of the yurt and multiply it by a factor of 5 – that is the percentage to deduct from today’s price yurt.
EX: The price calculator on our website lists a new 30’ Eagle (in today’s price) at $26,000. It is a five year old yurt. 5×5 = 25. Deduct 25% off the price. In good condition this yurt would have a value in the $19,500 range. If it were 10 years old (5×10=50) is would be worth around $13,000. Of course, this is like looking up a car on Kelly Blue Book website – the condition and upgrades can sway a price in either direction.
- Use common sense! Follow your gut instinct. If something sounds too good to be true … it usually is!
I have purchased and sold several things over the years on Craigslist with much success. I always take extra safety precautions, and urge you to do so as well: If I were going to their place of residence, I always took my husband or a friend with me. If they were coming to our residence, I would make sure that it was during the day (not at night) and that my husband would be there, too. In the one or two cases where we met in the middle and I was alone, I asked for a texted photo of their driver’s license (they can put their thumb over the address) and license plate, explaining that it made it easier to know the right car and or recognize the driver if meeting in a grocery store parking lot. I would then, before I left, send that info to my husband or to a friend, and then call my back-up person the minute I got back in the car to let them know I was all right. I don’t advocate going alone, but if you must, meet in a busy crowded parking lot or “safe place” with a well-lit area with cameras.
If you hear of a new yurt-related scam, feel free to contact us. We get lots of calls about used yurts on Craigslist and help people assess their value. We would hate to help only to find out someone lost a large chunk of money in a scam. Be alert, and if you suspect a scam, share it with us.
Let’s hope these creeps move on to another product to fraudulently sell or better yet – get caught!
Updates from commenters confirm that this scam is ongoing as recently as September 2017.