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I have learned that a person (A) I know is being asked to carry out cash purchases of expensive coins by their neighbour (B) under the pretense of working close to the (brick-and-mortar) store which offers said coins.

I am somewhat worried that this might be the run-up to some kind of scam or involvement in money laundering. So far I see no opportunity for a scam and the people involved are long-term neighbours (at least 5yrs), and also have a bit of a personal connection. The way to the store is indeed a bit longish, I'd say, 4hrs. round-trip. AFAIK the cash is paid upfront and there is no banking involved. A receives the money, carries out the purchase and returns the goods to B. There is no expected payment or anything involved.

This all sounds benign, but then I am kind of baffled by the amount of money involved which is roughly 1000 euros.

What measures should A consider to guard against accusations which might be brought against them later, if they do not want to plainly deny the request? What kind of accusations could follow? I am mostly worried about money laundering regulations, but maybe I have missed something.

Would receipts about money being received, and goods being returned, hold up to legal standards? The country would be Germany.

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  • This is more of a legal question than a personal finance question. The best safeguard I can think of is to hire a lawyer to look into the arrangement. If they're willing to tell you that no laws are being broken, then you probably have some protection.
    – glibdud
    May 18, 2020 at 2:19
  • What's this bit about "under the pretense of working close to the store"? Is the neighbour pretending to be a representative of the store? Is he claiming to live close when really he's 4 hours away? It might be that the neighbour, B, is being scammed somehow by whomever is buying the coins from him, it might be that B is defrauding people who buy the coins by pretending to be an official rep of the store (maybe he's upcharging too much?) Or it might be a legitimate trading business and B is simply taking advantage of A's willingness to travel 4 hours on a semi-regular basis.
    – Steve-O
    May 19, 2020 at 13:34

1 Answer 1

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I'll adapt my answer from this question: A newer friend of my brother's gave him a load of baseball cards that are supposedly extremely valuable. Is this a scam?:

The major points for your case seem to be:

  • Why can't your friends neighbor just go buy the coins himself? Is it completely impractical to make the trip himself?
  • Is your friend handling the money or just acting as a courier to deliver the coins since he is already nearby?
  • Why can't your friends neighbor just mail order the coins?
  • Is your friend capable of evaluating if the purchased coins are as-advertised? Would he know the difference between a rare coin and a fake? Coin collecting is a hobby that thrives on details. If your friend moves money and goods, and something is wrong with the goods that could be a big problem to fix.
  • Minimum wage in Germany is approximately 10 euros/hour, fuel is expensive. Is your friend being paid for his time, fuel, meals, etc.?
  • This question was posted in May, 2020. There is a pandemic and many countries are under special restrictions, does the travel and purchase run into problems with those restrictions?

Going to the corner store to get a beer and a kebab for a neighbor is no big deal. Maybe even buying groceries for a week is a nice gesture. Moving 1.000 euro of goods from far away is a business deal, not a courtesy to a neighbor. Your friend should say no.

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