FF12: CraigsList call for hurricane work risky if not a scam

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Your mom always told you not to get in cars with strangers, but what if there's money involved?

Timothy Ziegler called FactFinder 12 after he responded to a CraigsList ad asking for workers to help with hurricane relief in Florida. He said the promise at first was for work.

But once he heard back from the man who posted the ad, he says he got suspicious.

"Then he said, cost you $100 for ride and will find you work the day you arrive," Ziegler said.

Money up front with no guarantee for work wasn't a situation Ziegler thought was ideal.

"I asked him to fill out a 1099 or a W-2 and so forth and he says well, I'm not a business and I'm like well why are you advertising a job like you are a business?" Ziegler said.

Ziegler said the man got aggravated and he hasn't spoken to him since. He said he's had to pay to go somewhere for work before, but he's always gotten documentation from a reputable company that there would be work there or that he would be reimbursed.

This time, he had none of that.

FactFinder 12 Investigator Devon Fasbinder called the number from the ad and spoke with the man who posted it.

He assured us he wasn't trying to scam anyone. He said he's heard there's work in Florida for hurricane relief and there's not enough work here for him. He said he can't afford to drive down there on his own so he posted the ad.

He was nervous and didn't want to give his name, but told us he couldn't guarantee any work at all, though he told Ziegler he could the day he arrived.

Ziegler said he's glad he followed his gut and didn't go on the trip.

"I'm willing to go out of my way to help others but on the same aspect, I don't want to be left behind," he said.

FactFinder 12 contacted the Wichita Police Financial Crimes Unit. Sergeant Santiago Hungria said these kinds of deals are often scams, but not always. He said regardless, people need to be careful even if the person posting is an honest person.

He advised people to do their own research first. He said if there's work promised, do your own research and see if you can find the same opportunities. Any reputable person would give out phone numbers and contact information to confirm there is work.

When it comes to the money, Hungria said don't give it all up front. Instead, pay for gas along the route versus handing over cash. He said don't put it on a green dot card or any other prepaid card that the person has access to. In those situations, he said it's easy to take the money and run.

Hungria also said it's not a bad idea to meet the person first and get their information to pass along to others who know you're traveling.

Overall, Hungria said you have to be comfortable with the situation. You are getting into a car with a stranger and that goes against common sense. He said stick to your gut and be aware and alert of any red flags.

Again, he said some of these situations aren't scams, but that doesn't make them safe or a smart decision.