19

I am selling a mower on Craigslist and I received this in a text:

FRM: Harry Luong

SUBJ: Re: Hey, is still for sale?

MSG: Great I saw the detail on the Ad and I'm okay with the price & condition and i want you to consider it sold. I will be securing the payment by sending you (Bank check) Via USPS next day delivery and i will handle the Shipping my self with my private Mover that will come down there for the pick up after the check cleared. I'II need your full name and Address or po box for the check to be issued out to you Thanks

Is this a scam?

  • 9
    Seems odd to me. – Hart CO Jun 7 at 19:34
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    How much are you selling it for and what's it worth? It must be a really good deal for someone from out of town to purchase without looking at it, and hire a private service to ship it. Are you more than $500 under market? I'd say 99% scam. You're probably one message away from being instructed to pay the mover and that makes it 100% scam. – TTT Jun 7 at 20:12
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    Note also that no specific reference to the item appears in the response. If you want a bit of fun, triple your price for the flat screen tv and you'll still get a positive response. Yes, it's a mower, not a tv, but the scammer doesn't care. – fred_dot_u Jun 7 at 22:06
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    There's a reason every Craigslist page says "Avoid scams, deal locally Beware wiring (e.g. Western Union), cashier checks, money orders, shipping." This all violates several of their suggestions for avoiding scams: "Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts." – Zach Lipton Jun 8 at 5:47
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    If you have to ask this the answer is yes. – HH- Apologize to Carole Baskin Jun 8 at 22:56
60

Yes.

Nobody sends movers to buy a mower. The check you receive will be fake, but the money you'll send back to the scammer will be very real, and out of your pocket.

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  • 18
    Re: "the money you'll send back to the scammer will be very real" needs either clarification or correction, since the OP says nothing about giving money over to the other party. (Perhaps you expect something like in @K_focer9's answer). – Daniel R. Collins Jun 8 at 5:20
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    @Dai sorry, no. If it is a large ride-on tractor mower, then the buyer have even more reason to make sure it isn't a lemon and actually works. Nobody just buys second hand stuff and go "Here's the money, send it over". – Nelson Jun 8 at 10:38
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    @DanielR.Collins It's not hard to imagine. The cheque will be for more than the mower, and buyer tells OP to pay the mower. The scam is now complete. It's not that hard to fabricate random reasons for the OP to pay the movers. – Nelson Jun 8 at 10:39
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    @Nelson quote Nobody just buys second hand stuff and go "Here's the money, send it over" - that's completely normal for Finn.no Torget in Norway, that's usually how it's done =/ ( Finn is kindof like a Norwegian version of ebay) – hanshenrik Jun 8 at 12:33
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    @Nelson: If that's the best response, then I recommend upvoting K_foxer9's answer, which actually says that. This answer currently does not. – Daniel R. Collins Jun 8 at 14:31
53

Yes.

This is a version of a widely used scam. Examples

Basically, what's likely to happen is that you may receive a check, but there's a good chance that it'll be more than was agreed to, and you'll be asked to pay the shipper the balance. (Usually, the scammer is the shipper or with the shipper, surreptitiously). Eventually, the check will bounce, and you're out the item and the money.

Just because a check clears after a few days does not mean the check is good. Checks can clear and then later bounce, and even then you're responsible for it.

There's a number of ways this works for the scammer, and they could even be using the opportunity to case your home.

As a rule of thumb, don't complete online transactions at your home, go somewhere public and safe. Also, never accept checks, personal or cashier's, they're very risky.

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    I'm probably going a bit tangential but why is a cleared cheque allowed to bounce? Are there some benifits to it? It just seems to be an open invitation to scammers. – Anvit Jun 10 at 14:20
  • @Anvit: years ago banks would put holds on deposited funds for up to a month because "the check might bounce". Eventually legislation was passed requiring banks to make deposited funds available in a much shorter time frame - three days, if memory serves. However, three days may not be long enough for a physical check to clear. So nowadays banks will typically credit your account immediately when a check is deposited, but if the check bounces several days/weeks later they will reverse the deposit and notify you of the problem. (This is in the US - don't know about other countries) – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jun 10 at 14:40
  • Note that even if the check doesn't bounce after 14 days you are still liable for the full amount if the check is later determined to be criminal/fraudulent. It may 'clear' because the scammer is using real account information from somebody that might not notice for 3 months. When they report the fraudulent charges the money will disappear from your account, plunging you to a negative balance if that's what it takes and hopefully you won't be facing any criminal inquiries (unlikely if it's a one-time thing where you got scammed) – nvuono Jun 10 at 19:23
16

Yes, it's an extremely common scam. It's most likely a generated message from an automated system that churns through Craigslist ads, sending the same generic email for each one. Note that there is no mention of the item or the price or anything else that would suggest this "person" even read the ad.

These scams are unavoidable on Craigslist. One thing always do is put "CASH ONLY" in my ads. It won't stop the scammers, but it makes it really easy to ignore any response that talks about "securing the payment" or paying me by check or money order. They don't even get a response.

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  • 1
    Responding would probably land you on a spam mailing list. That's a good strategy to filter them out! – jpaugh Jun 8 at 16:18
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    Yes, you can tell it is a scam just from the subject alone, "Hey, is still for sale?" No need to even read the body, no mention of whats for sale = scam. – Glen Yates Jun 8 at 18:19
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    Whenever I see CASH ONLY I think: here's someone who wants to avoid paying taxes. Nothing inherently wrong with selling on ebay with paypal payments, or even accepting a live online payment at the time of pickup (after confirming the piano is in good order, sitting down together while doing the transaction, signing to confirm receipt of goods, with modern online payments money should arrive in seconds). Of course it depends if the item is 20 €/£/$ or 2000 €/£/$. I find carrying large amounts of cash around scary. – gerrit Jun 9 at 9:25
  • @gerrit There have been many scams where sellers have lost money when selling items using PayPay. PayPal/Ebay tend to protect the buyer rather than the seller. People will claim that the item didn't arrive or was damaged and Paypal will refund the full cost leaving the seller without the money or the item. – scotty3785 Jun 9 at 10:06
  • @scotty3785 Interesting. One wonders how the many people selling and shipping stuff on Ebay handle that. – gerrit Jun 9 at 10:30
12

My folks almost got hit with such a scam. They were trying to sell an old classic car engine or transmission on craigslist. I remember it being something big bulky and heavy. They had some phone exchange with the out of state buyer who rapid shipped some actual UPS label to have a freight delivery operator come and pick up the unit. They also shipped in the same envelope a cashiers check to their local bank. I inspected and scrutinized the check, it looked indubitably real. There was an address and such for the bank which was a small local bank in Virginia or something out East Coast from what I remember. I looked up their phone number online and called them up and asked if they could verify that the given check number and amount and issuer were valid. The gentleman took a moment, looked up the information and shared it was not a valid check issued by their bank. He also shared with me that they've been the target of these sorts of scams for a handful of cases in the last few months and suggested we forward our theft case to the authorities, which if I recall was FBI and some regulatory body like consumer fraud, I forget exactly.

This page on craigslist is worth reading

https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams

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  • Does this mean the seller can protect themselves against such a scam by calling the bank? If the bank says "yes, it's real", does that make it a safe deal? – gerrit Jun 9 at 15:33
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    @gerrit, No. If it's a small bank from somewhere far away, the bank itself could be fake, with a 4-page website whose phone number routes to the scammer. – Michael Jun 9 at 16:40
  • Yah, if they confirmed it may be worth double checking their presence by corroborating against several independent pieces of information. Too much work to even get to that point in my opinion but they were already deep in the situation that I had to catch up to what already took place. – jxramos Jun 10 at 1:24
  • @Michael-Where'sClayShirky Hmm, but I'd expect banks are licensed registered businesses, so with a bit of detective work it should be possible to figure out if a bank is real or not, shouldn't it? – gerrit Jun 10 at 7:08
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    The "buyer" could be using a real bank with real customer account number and other information on a check with stolen information, Verifying with the bank that the information is correct and a valid check still won't tell you if the check is being written by the actual account holder. Scammer could be sending you $1000, asking for $200 cash back and doesn't even care if the item ever gets anywhere as long as they get your $200 in untraceable cash from the stolen information. – nvuono Jun 10 at 19:28
9

Craigslist

mailing, check, and/or shipping

Scam

It's as simple as that. Craigslist is ONLY for face-to-face, cash-on-the-barrelhead transactions. As soon as "mail", "check" or "ship" comes up, block the "buyer". It is a scam.

Of course, your guy dinged all 3 bells.

If someone wants to do that type of transaction, and you believe they are real, you should force them onto a platform with proper anti-scam and seller protections, such as eBay/PayPal. And you need to play savvy and by the rules there, too. The methods used by Craigslist scammers do not work on any eBay/PayPal who is savvy and following the rules.

Of course the same is true for Craigslist, the rules plainly say "Local/face to face sales only".

How it works.

The scammers are on Craigslist because that works, because 1% of people will be fooled and agree to absurd transactions.

The "check scam" is that the check is forged in a way that will take a very long time to bounce. However the bank only places a hold on the money for X days (that's the time most checks take to bounce). Consumers think that the hold release means the check cleared. It does not. Meanwhile the scammer is telling you "Look, the check cleared, send me back some of the money!" And gives you an irreversible method like Western Union. Then the check bounces, and you are out the money you sent onward.

There's some excuse for overpaying, and then the scammer says "Pay my shipping company when the item is picked up". That gets revised to "Oh, my shipping company needs it in advance, can you wire it to Western Union 123-456-7890111".

And then the shipper never shows up. The payment you wired was the endgame of the scam.

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1

Those people are indeed scammers. They tried to buy a car from my family using such methods. Then they sent a paypal payment page so we can pay just for the transportation.

Guess what? It wasn't a paypal address. It was something like paypalsomething.com.

In our case it was a car. Beware!

Plus, don't even respond. I suppose most of that is actually automated so calling them names should not even get to them. They must be doing this by the thousands everyday.

Thanks governments for not sorting it out.

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0

This is a fraud, end to end. The cheque you get will not be properly printed with machine readable magnetic ink.

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0

Felt it important to add an answer because there seems to be a theme among other users answering this question that the result of being scammed will be that you won't be sent a real check or you'll be given a check that bounces due to insufficient funds. You could very well get the money and have it in your account for a month before the problems start.

Scammers can buy all the information they need to write a real check in somebody else's name and create a counterfeit check that the issuing bank may even be able to verify as a 'valid' check. If the scammer is using the personal information for somebody who has enough money in their account then the check won't even bounce. It may be months until that person notices the fraudulent activity and reports it. At that point the funds will be removed from your account, plunging you to a negative balance if necessary. You'll be contacted by the bank security team or law enforcement who will probably just verify you got scammed and not take any further action but that money will never be coming back.

The scammer cannot get away with just directly transferring the money out of the person whose information they stole so they are trying to get it laundered through you via different transfer modes (you sending cash, paypal, western union, etc) that won't easily be reversed and will be more difficult to track back to them.

The movers/delivery service will likely never even materialize to pick up the item so you may not lose your mower though.

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  • good things to ponder here. Is any of this precedented before? The part about fraudulent activity and removing funds from your account. Can that actually happen, under what authority I'm wondering? – jxramos Jun 10 at 22:09

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