HOUSTON – You may not get the computer you paid for on Craigslist. This story started with a call from a frustrated viewer.
“He’s duping people,” said Galveston resident Chris Whatley. “He’s stealing. It’s not right.”
As an entertainer and comic, the former drag queen loves an audience and loves to make them laugh. But at the moment, Whatley himself isn’t laughing.
“Oh no, not funny at all,” he said.
That’s because Whatley wanted to buy a laptop this summer and he also wanted to save money.
So he went online to Craigslist where he found a used MacBook laptop computer. The seller was a man who used the screen name “Green Yoo.”
Whatley said he was told by Green Yoo that he was selling his own personal computer, which was only a few years old, only because he was upgrading to a better model.
“That appealed to me,” said Whatley, “Because, ‘Oh cool, this is his computer so he knows the history of it.’”
When Whatley met with the seller, the Galveston resident says he was again told by Green Yoo that it was his personal computer.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I upgraded. I have a Macbook Pro and that’s why I’m selling this computer,’” Whatley explained.
Whatley said when Green Yoo demonstrated the computer that it seemed to work well. So, he paid the asking price of $450.
But, just hours later he had problems with the computer, starting with the disc drive not working.
He ended up taking it to Best Buy so the “Geek Squad” could take a look at it.
Chris Whatley: Not only was the mother board fried, the display was defective.
KHOU 11 News: How much was it going to cost to fix?
KHOU 11 News: $2,000?
Whatley: $2,000. I was really mad. I was like, OK, I got duped.
Whatley said he asked for Green Yoo for his money back several times, but the seller wouldn’t give it to him.
Whatley: I said I want my $450 back.
KHOU 11 News: And what did he say?
And Chris Whatley may not be alone.
We found dozens of Craigslist ads very similar to the one Whatley answered, going back months. They offered supposedly personally-owned computers of different makes, in supposedly good condition, and only for sale because the seller had recently upgraded.
So, the I-Team investigated, went undercover and found something surprising.
All of these ‘personal computers’ were being sold by the mysterious Green Yoo.
So we answered one of his ads and had one of our producers meet him at a League City coffee bar.
“Can I try it out?” asked the KHOU 11 News producer.
“Yeah, of course,” said Green Yoo.
“This is your old computer?” asked our producer.
“Oh yes,” the seller replied.
Green Yoo claimed he was selling his two-and-half-year-old computer, in this case a Macbook Air because, once again, he was upgrading.
“You are upgrading,” our producer asked.
“Yeah,” said the seller.
He even did a demonstration and our producer tried it out. So she paid the asking price of $590 and took the laptop with her.
KHOU 11 News also answered another one of his ads. On this occasion it was for a three-and-a-half-year-old Macbook.
He had us meet him at the same coffee bar where we got the same ‘spiel’:
He was only selling his computer because he was upgrading.
We paid $420 for that computer.
Then, we showed both computers to cyber-expert Ernesto Rojas.
KHOU 11 News: I paid $420. Did I get gypped?
Rojas: (Laughs) Let’s just say you overpaid for it.
We first showed him the Macbook that was supposedly three and a half years old.
“It’s pretty dead,” pronounced Rojas. “It reads only one of three CDs that you place in it.”
KHOU 11 News: “So, basically this computer is good for spare parts?”
And Rojas found the computer wasn’t really three and a half years old.
“Actually, it’s six years old. It’s pretty much at the end of its life,” Rojas said.
Then we showed him the Macbook Air.
KHOU 11 News: Is this two and a half years old?
Rojas: No. It’s manufactured in 2008, June of 2008.
And Rojas found another problem that could get any buyer of these two computers into trouble: The software on the machines. “The serial numbers are the same,” Rojas explained.
In short, he said they may violate software copyright law, something he said would not be “fair to the buyer” of these machines.
So, the KHOU 11 News I-Team set up one more computer buy with Green Yoo. Using another one of our producers, we met with him at the same coffee bar of his choosing.
When he indicated to our ‘undercover buyer’ that the laptop he had was another personal computer of his, we moved in.
Our first question: “How many computers do you own? Five, ten, 15, 20, 25?”
Seller: “Actually, I am continuously upgrading, selling.”
Then we asked him to explain the discrepancy over the age of the computers.
KHOU 11 News: “You’re not telling them the truth.”
Seller: “I’m telling them the truth.”
KHOU 11 News: “How are you telling them the truth when you tell them it was made two and a half years ago when it’s really four years ago and another one three and a half-“
KHOU 11 News: “-and it’s really six?”
Seller: “That’s my understanding. That’s my understanding: I use it two and a half years ago, then it’s two and a half years old.”
KHOU 11 News: “You don’t think you’re scamming people, duping people?”
Seller: “No, no, no. It’s fair trade. You have computer. I have money. It’s fair trade.”
Chris Whatley is suing Green Yoo, which is not his real name, in Galveston County Civil Court, with a date set in December.
Meanwhile, the seller maintains he is doing nothing wrong and says he’ll continue to sell computers on Craigslist.
We contacted Craigslist and have not yet received a response.
By the way, Craigslist warns buyers about scams and provides links to consumer protection resources.