Many consumers buy and sell items, everything from electronics, cars, apparel, collectibles sporting goods, cameras, baby items, furniture and everything else on shopping websites such as eBay and Craigslist. Miami's Chief of Police George Haralson is warning those selling to beware of a growing scam bilking hundreds and thousands in cash from its victims.
The scam is conducted by sending a check to the seller for far more than the purchase price and cost of shipping for an item. The seller is asked to cash the check keeping a substantial portion for themselves. The seller is then asked to mail the remaining amount to an enclosed address.
In the case brought to Chief Haralson's attention the item, an auto part, was purchased on Craigslist for $100 and shipping was around $40. The buyer e-mailed the seller and told him he was sending a check for $1,540 which included $140 to cover the cost of the item and shipping. The man told the seller he could keep an additional $400 and asked him to mail the remaining $1,000 cash to his friend in Palo Alto, California.
“The address in Pal Alto is for a commercial mail drop and the check is bogus. It was sent by Fed-Ex form Philadelphia, so there was no federal violation in terms of mail fraud,” Chief Haralson said.
“What would happen would be that this young man would go to his bank, cash the check. If he had $1,500 in his account they probably would have cashed this, but in a day or two they probably would have figured out that this is a bogus check made on a computer and they would deduct that amount of money from his account to recover the bad check and there would be no recourse,” he said.
The bogus check had a watermark, listed a reputable, established university's address, and local Oklahoma City Bank making it quite legitimate looking.
According to Chief Haralson this is a fairly common scam affecting sellers on Craigslist and eBay and the scam artists usually send out hundreds of similar deals.
“An average of 6 out of 100 people will fall for this scam. This is a public awareness reminder for people if they're selling items on eBay or Craigslist that if someone emails them and if it's too good to be true it probably is,” he said.
Chief Haralson said if anyone receives something like this they should bring it to the police department's attention. He said that these cases are hard to investigate and prosecute due to many of these scam situations crossing state and international lines and jurisdictions.
He suggested anyone who receives a questionable check should consult their banking institution before attempting to cash any suspicious checks.