Scammers posing as prospective buyers of a 5-year-old big-screen television came very close to cheating a Clinton man out of thousands of dollars. Greg Rayburn brought his story to me, and offered his experience as a warning to any of us who use online platforms to buy and sell.
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to sell some unwanted household furnishing, you walked into the local newspaper office and took out a classified ad, or maybe you dialed up a radio station during their “buy, sell, or trade” program. And you could always post something on the bulletin board at work. Or find a second-hand dealer to give you a bid.
In 2023, anyone looking to sell second hand can access a host of online platforms to literally show the world what’s for sale. These include auction websites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, many local auction groups, and niche sites specializing in particular products. And you can still buy a classified ad in newspapers. But that ad will get online exposure as well, with most newspapers participating in online posting of their classifieds.
In December 2022, Greg Rayburn decided he wanted to replace his 5-year-old big screen with a newer model, which offered better features. He went the classified ad route to find a buyer. While the ad generated zero local response, Greg soon started receiving similar-sounding text messages from two different out–of-state sources, offering to buy the big-screen unit.
These buyers said they planned to handle shipping and agreed to pay the asking price. Even though Greg never gave an okay, within days, the postal service delivered Priority Mail envelopes to Greg, each enclosed with cashier’s checks paid to Greg. Now, Greg became suspicious when he saw the checks paid him about three times his asking price for the television.
The buyers almost immediately followed up the checks’ delivery by hounding Greg with text messages, pushing him to deposit the checks. It was all too much for Greg. He contacted law enforcement, who confirmed his suspicions about how scammy this sounded.
Despite their perfect appearance, the checks were counterfeit. If Greg played by the rules set out by the crooks, he would have cashed the checks, and received instructions to send the large excess payments off somewhere to “pay the movers” or some such reason. When the checks inevitably returned to Greg’s bank as bogus, he would have to accept the loss and pay back the bank for the cash he received.
Grifters like Greg’s television buyers love fake checks. They are quickly and cheaply produced, usually at no cost to the scammers. They show up in a variety of scams. I see many in lottery scams and auction scams. Fake checks usually share some common traits:
• They pay several times whatever the receiver expected.
• They draw from accounts on banks which don’t connect with anything in the expected transaction.
• They arrive in Priority Mail or some other express delivery service.
If you find yourself holding a check like this, start to feel uneasy. You are getting up for a fraud. You can take it to your bank or credit union, but make sure you tell them the entire story behind the check. Reach out to law enforcement for advice. Do not negotiate the check or send the proceeds away as the crooks instruct you to do.
CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME
Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at email@example.com.
Randy Meier is the director of Seniors vs. Crime.