Giving It All Away Without Getting Scammed

A few weeks ago I wrote about scaling down our lives for our coming adventure. Decades of living “large” has presented the biggest challenge to moving into our new motor home. Whether through online listings, gifts to friends and relatives, or donations to charitable causes, the logistics of getting rid of all the extra stuff can be overwhelming.

But now we have another layer to add: scams.

As previously mentioned, one way we were finding new homes for our stuff was with LetGo. It’s the equivalent of an online garage sale without all the curbside parking. We’ve had mixed results – sold a few small household items, had more than a few potential buyers flake out, and most recently, we had at least one user try to run a check cashing scam on us.

To their credit, LetGo accepted our report without fuss. One of the two accounts was already under review (and may in fact be the same person). So this isn’t a take down of their service, more of a PSA for others when using online listings.

One of the trickiest things for us to part with has been our bedroom set. It’s an ornate, six piece solid wood set bought to fit in a big bedroom under vaulted ceilings without looking all Alice in Wonderland.

Not only is it perhaps the sole reason we hired movers for our relocation to our rental, but selling it presents a few awkward logistical issues such as “how long do we want to sleep on the floor?”

So, we’ve put it off until now.

When we had a buyer only a day after listing, we should’ve been suspicious. When a different LetGo account offered the exact same terms to purchase our son’s computer desk my spidey sense went from a tingle to an uncomfortable burning sensation.

Here’s how the scam works:

  • A buyer offers to pay full price, no questions asked. They might even sweeten the offer for you to pull the listing while they get the payment together.
  • The buyer will be unable to pay with cash and will insist on a cashier’s check or money order. There is usually some sort of story to head off questions. (We were told our buyer was a military family moving to the area on short notice.)
  • The buyer then cuts the check for more than the price of the item. In our case, he texted to say he was sending a check for nearly two thousand dollars over the asking price. (If your spidey sense isn’t in full seizure mode at this point, you need to work in law enforcement for a few years and get more jaded about people…)
  • This extra money will presumably be for you to deliver to a helper. In our case, the mover who the scammer said was also moving the rest of their furniture.

The intent was for us to cash the check, pay the helper the extra two grand, and then, a few weeks later when all the processing actually completes, have the bank reverse charges on the bogus check leaving us on the hook for several thousand dollars.

(This is where I briefly put on my evangelist’s vestments and mention that with Bitcoin, and any cryptocurrency, this type of scam can’t ever happen.)

At this point, we’ve received the check with no intention of cashing it. For his trouble, the guy is out the cost of a priority mail envelope.

Part of me wants to tell him we’re good to go and he should send his mover over right away ’cause wouldn’t that be an interesting conversation? Or maybe run down the tracking number on the envelope. Confirm his Ohio address (likely fake – though the letter did originate there, just at a different post office across the state from the sender’s given address). Try to get more information on the El Paso phone number he or the “helper” used for the texts (probably a burner though unless he’s particularly dense).

Then there’s the fingerprint left on the check itself in what was once wet ink…

But I don’t have time for all that. I’ve got a bedroom set to sell, a tow dolly to assemble (more on that later), and an adventure to begin!

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