Craigslist Bad Check Scam Alert to Craigslist Sellers
Craigslist Bad Check Scam Alert
You decide to sell some furniture on Craigslist. You list an item at a fair price, provide a nice picture and wait for emails from potential buyers. Oh look….here’s an offer at full price sight unseen from someone out of state. This is really good because they are going to send you a check for the full amount of your asking price plus a generous amount for you to pay the mover when they come. They ask that you deposit the check upon receipt and state that they will give you a day for the check to clear. At that time they will have the mover come by if you forward their fees via Walmart money transfer to a separate person and address they will give you. This is my official Cragslist bad check consumer scam alert. If it sounds too good to be true…It’s not true. But what is wrong here? The check is a cashier check from an out of state bank. The “buyer” gives it a chance to clear. You are getting full price. Everything is going just as you hoped. Isn’t it great that a perfect stranger is trusting you with the moving money? Here’s how the Craigslist bad check scam alert works.
“Buyer” Moves in for the Kill
You deposit the check in your checking account. The next day it shows as collected. You have gotten another email with a different name and address for the “mover.” The email even tells you to take another $20.00 out for your trouble. You think that the mover is being well paid since the buyer paid you $300.00 for the loveseat and sent you a check for $970.00. You send the Walmart money transfer for $650.00 to the mover and wait for word on when the pick up will be made. The check was counterfeit, the buyer and the mover fictitious. Now what? You go to your bank and ask how this could happen. As you “stare into the vacuum of his eyes” (Thank you Bob Dylan) you are told that the bank is not responsible. Banks credit as cleared either all or some of a cashier’s check before it is actually OK’d by the issuing bank. This transitional float is the chink in the armor of the banking system that is being exploited by these scammers.
I personally had a close call
The amounts of money I used in paragraph 3 are the actual amounts I dealt with on my own first personal experience with the Craigslist bad check scam. I hate to confess that I actually deposited the check in my bank account but I did so with growing reservations. That gut feeling that something isn’t right about this was growing. The next day was a holiday. I received a message that the “buyer” wanted the overage forwarded to a mover at an out of state address via Walmart money transfer. The mover was going to be in my area soon. I felt uneasy about the fact that the extra money that had been sent to me was not for the purpose of paying the mover in cash upon arrival. Now I was to send money back out of state. Why would he send me the moving money at all instead of forwarding it himself? The next day I checked my bank account and the check showed as available funds. I stalled another day, another day, another day while getting more emails from the buyer about keeping my end of the bargain and closing the deal. Then the deposit showed as dishonored.
Banks and Law Enforcement Don’t Seem Interested in Investigating and Prosecuting
The scam got even more bizarre when I received a near identical template of the scheme with an offer to buy a second piece of furniture I had listed at the same time. This time for a $400.00 bookshelf I was forwarded a check drawn from a well know cultural organization in Boston in the amount of $3700.00! That’s some generous mover’s fee. I called the bank on which the check was drawn. They confirmed that the account was real but said I would have to take it in to them if I was that suspicious of it. It would have cost me an entire day to do that since they had no branch local to me. I emailed the controller of the institution whose name was on the check. He immediately replied with heartfelt thanks telling me that the account number, bank and name on the signature were correct but the check was a counterfeit. They were getting hit hard over and over with this but could get no action out of the postal service, the Boston police or the FBI to investigate or stop the madness. In my own case my lovely banker got all nasty on me insinuating that it was my own fault somehow. What an awful thing that a Full Frontal attack on the financial system is met with such apathy. God is the only help for the elderly and naive who get swindled by this scam. The authorities who should be investigating and prosecuting are totally apathetic.
Craigslist is a great resource. It is also open to the lowest of the low. As the referees like to say in boxing matches: “Protect yourself at all times.”