This falls under the category of scam artist at work.
Ann posted some items to sale on Craig’s List the other day (if you are interested in what they were, please contact us) and actually got a response with an offer to buy one of the items. Then the fun began!
She got one e-mail expressing interest followed by two e-mails asking for forgiveness in not quickly sending the payment. Today she got the check, delivered Priority Mail Express no less, and a fourth e-mail explaining that there had been a mix-up with the banker and that we needed to cash the check and keep the sale price plus a little something for our trouble. We were then to get a Western Union money order and send the rest back to the buyer. If we had done this, the buyer would have received something on the order of four figures.
Now, each of the e-mails that we received were very poorly written and this was the first of many alarms to go off. The fourth e-mail contained an address not related to the sender of the e-mails or the address on the check. At this point, can you say Nigeria?
Okay, now this check looks real. I mentioned because this isn’t the first time we have received such checks (the first time, it was even a good copy). As it happens, the bank and the company on which the check we received today are real companies but the check is hacked. When I called the company on whose account it was drawn and mentioned what we had, the company representative knew immediately what had happened and told me that whoever sent us this check had stolen the routing number and account number.
In speaking with the company representative, she noted that ours was not the first attempt to perpetrate this fraud. You could her in her voice a certain degree of sadness as to the number of people who have lost money because they were victims.
It is an old, old saying that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. And in this case, that is certainly the case.
Let’s just say that from the beginning of this little episode, Ann and I were expecting a fraud. When you send an e-mail that is poorly constructed, that’s the first tip-off. And then when you get an amount of money that is way out of line, that’s the winner.
The moral of this story, to borrow from a second cliché, is seller beware.
For other scams, look at “Couldn’t They Have Been A Bit More Subtle?” and “There’s A Sermon In Here Somewhere But First A Warning!”
And addendum – We contacted the company whose address was on the return label and were told that they had several of these letters. It isn’t just a scam but postal fraud now.