By Nancy Black
I had thought of everything, until I didn’t think at all. I’d covered all my bases, except my home base. I thought I was smart but learned my intelligence can fail me.
Let me set the stage. I was selling my dearly beloved Toyota van, which I no longer needed now that I am an empty nester. I had the carpets cleaned, detailed the interior myself and took great pictures to post on Facebook and Craigslist.
The first offer came from a man responding to the Craigslist ad. He wanted to pay me the price I requested, plus an additional $50 “for holding the vehicle for him until his check arrived.” All I had to do was send him my name, address and phone number, then he would send me a tracking number.
Sounds like a scam, right? So, I gave him my name, the address of the Northeast Subdivision of the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and the telephone number of a DPD officer I work with on community events. I’m so clever. I was going to catch a scammer at his own game. I thought for sure the person wanting my car would Google the address I sent him, see it was a police station and go about his merry way scamming other people. No. He actually sent a check with a FedEx tracking number. The police station refused delivery since it was addressed to me and we never heard from the “scammer” again.
The next person who wanted my well-travelled van responded from Facebook Marketplace. We went back and forth about the price a couple of times, which made me believe he was a serious buyer. We agreed to meet for a test drive.
Once again, I covered all my bases, or so I thought. I arranged to meet him at the Northeast Subdivision of the DPD, near Flag Pole Hill. I had the title, both key fobs and a title registration form already printed out. I told my DPD friend what the plan was and texted him when I arrived.
The buyer arrived on time and we went for a quick test drive. Once back at the station, he haggled with me about the price a little more before I accepted his deal. He pulled out more than $3000 in cash, we took pictures of each other’s licenses and I signed the title over to him.
It was bittersweet saying goodbye to my van. We’ve been through a lot together. Two toddlers who eventually learned to drive using it. My mother, who’s been gone for more than four years now, whose wheelchair fit perfectly in the back. The time we drove down to College Station with eight people and three dogs. Thinking back on all the people, animals and cargo that van hauled throughout the years is like flashing back on the last 10 years of my life. But it was time to say goodbye.
I gave her a kiss and wished her well on her new adventures. The buyer had shared with me he was shipping my van to Nigeria! In Africa! Turns out the automobile microchip shortage is worldwide. Anyway. “Bye, van! Have fun!”
As I walked away, I started pulling up the Lyft app on my phone so I could get home. The new owner of my van came back over to me from the car he had driven up in. He said his wife wasn’t able to get off work, and would I be willing to follow him to drop off the van. “It’s only 9 minutes away,” he said as he showed me his phone’s GPS. “Sure,” I answered. The place was actually halfway between my house and the police station, so it would be a shorter Lyft ride from there.
“I’ll even pay for your Uber home from there,” he added. Even better, I thought.
The freight cargo place where my (former) van would begin its long journey was near LBJ and Audelia Rd. in a super shady shopping center. Driving into the parking lot was like driving through a mine field after all the mines had exploded. I was afraid a tire would pop on the van as I tried to maneuver around huge craters in the pavement. About that time, I realized just how stupid and ignorant I was being.
I had more than $3000 cash in my purse. I just signed the title to my van over to a stranger, who has now lured me into a situation where I do not feel safe. “Oh, you watch too many of Forensic Files, Nancy,” I told myself. I had checked out the buyer of the van’s Facebook profile and even clicked on a few of his friends to make sure he was legit before I had agreed to meet him in the first place. He talked about his job and his wife during the test drive and mentioned he had family in Houston. “You’re just being paranoid and dramatic,” I said out loud.
I parked next to the new owner in his car and got out. The shipping place had a sign on the door saying they’d be back in 30 minutes. He was disappointed, mentioning he needed to get back to work.
I told him “no worries,” and started to order my Lyft. He wanted to use Uber, saying he drives for them. But the closest Uber was more than 20 minutes away.
“Why don’t you just drive me home? I offered. (Yes. I suggested it.) “It’s really close and by the time you get back, the shipping place will be open.” Aren’t I nice? No. I am sooooo stupid.
Obviously, I didn’t die that day. He didn’t slit my throat, throw me in the cargo part of my van, ship us both to Africa and run off with the money after robbing my home. But he could have. So easily! Looking back, I cannot believe I was so naïve and trusting. My gun carrying siblings shook their heads in disbelief when I shared this van story with them. And I hope you readers do, too. Trust is one thing. But putting yourself in a very compromising situation with a total stranger is another. Please learn from my mistakes. Travel in pairs and stay in safe public locations when dealing with purchases and strangers. Always!