Seller beware, fake cheques, dodgy money orders and shifty shipments
By John Fairheart, FraudWatchers.org
There are literally hundreds of thousands of places on the internet to sell 'stuff'. Getting rid of Aunt Molly's Shares in an American Tin Mining Corporation, to a bottle of air from the top of Mount Everest... you can sell it, on-line... go on... I DARE you!
Many millions of Dollars, Pounds, Yen or whatever coinage changes hands in succesful transactions every day on selling/aution sites around the globe. Unfortunately, the seller of these goods has to be aware of one thing in particular... FRAUD
is a small word that has a big meaning, maybe you would not associate it with selling your old computer, or getting rid of your car. But fraud happens, in big ways. Here we will concentrate on some aspects of selling on-line that you
the seller need to know... fake cheques, dodgy money orders and the shifty shipment.
The term 'cheque' (English) means the same as the American spelling 'check'. Some definitions follow of the different terms used to describe the various types of cheque likely to be seen:
- Personal Cheque - A cheque drawn against the account of a named individual (person).
- Business Cheque - A cheque drawn against the account of a business entity (trading name). These cheques may require 2 or more signatures depending upon the amount.
- Cashiers Cheque - A cheque drawn by a bank on its own funds and signed by the cashier.
- Certified Cheque - A check containing certification that the person who issued the check has sufficient funds on deposit to cover payment.
- International Money Order - Often issued by a buyer's bank and bought in the currency that the seller accepts.
Without getting into symantics about the word 'fake', here is what is generally accepted by the on-line community as to what a 'fake' cheque actually is.
- Counterfeit - A cheque modelled from an original, designed to pass itself off as the original.
- Stolen - A real cheque stolen from a company or individual.
- Faked - A cheque similar to a counterfeit, but which has no valid bank account attached.
Yes, I know that a stolen cheque isn't either a counterfeit or a faked cheque, but 'fake' is meaning "A cheque passed off to 'fake' a payment to another individual
". The term fake of course can simply be exchanged for 'FRAUDULENT'.
So, the buyer tells you that he/she will pay by cheque. This might be worded as personal cheque, cashiers cheque, certified cheque or International Money Order. You get the cheque which will always be more than the buying price. In all cases you will be asked to pass the remainder to someone else via a money transfer house such as the scammer favourite... Western Union.
So, you might think this is fine. You get the cheque and it clears to your account. You send the balance and your goods thinking you have just made a sale. DEAD WRONG!
Some weeks or even months down the line you will be the subject of a frantic investigation by your bank's' anti-fraud department. You may also have local law enforcement coming to you as a surprise and be accused of fraud and prosecuted. WHY?
Because the bank discovers that the cheque you paid in, was a dud.
It get's worse. The bank will NEVER EVER
be out of pocket (regardless of their fine-print about fraud protection). They take the money back from your account. They do not ask, they do not care if it puts you in the red, they just take it. This then leaves you with a possibly frozen bank account, trouble with the law, and ZERO CASH! And to cap it all... your goods have gone too!
Signs of cheque scam.
- Buyer is in Africa or is buying for someone in Africa.
- Buyer says they live in one country, but are currently somewhere else.
- Buyer wants to pay you more than you are asking.
- Buyer does not seem interested in viewing goods before paying.
- Buyer has an agent/collegue/partner who will be sending the cheque.
Under any circumstance, if you get more than you have asked for, and are asked to send the balance somewhere else, then it is 100% certain to be a scam. Not 99%, definately 100%. If you cash the cheque, you will regret it!
DODGY POSTAL MONEY ORDERS
In most cases if your buyer offers Money Orders as payment you will probably never see one. It is likely that the next step would be for you to receive an email apparently from Western Union, Western Union Bidpay, MoneyGram, United States Postal Service, Royal Mail... or another.
The trick with these guys is that they want your goods, but they do not want to pay. They will go for pretty much anything on offer without actually looking at your ad. Recently I had a group of ads up for a Spectrum ZX, worth approximately £5 GBP, but I advertised it at 100 times that amount. You would not beleive the number of offers I've had from scammers.
Signs of a Money Order scam
- Buyer needs an immediate response.
- Buyer appears unintersted in viewing your goods.
- Buyer wants to pay you 'immediately'.
- You receive an email telling you you have been paid.
This 'modality' is basically one of fooling you that you are being paid via a legitimate middle company. The e-mail states that your Money Orders will be sent to you upon confirmation that you have sent your goods. Obviously, if you send your goods, you will never get your money.
The dead giveaway is the 'Money Order' e-mail. It is very common for the scammer to send an email that has a tracking number and a link to royalmail.com. For those who don't know, The Royal Mail is British. So, how can you be getting Money Orders from the United States Postal Service, sent to you via a British postal organization.
Other things to look for is where the email was sent 'from'. If you got an email apparently from 'Western Union Bidpay' did it come from bidpay.com? There may also be an email address written in the body of the email to which any 'correspondance' must be sent. If it does not belong to the organization that 'apparently' sent the email, then it is certainly a scam.
The faked email, as discussed above, is used in conjunction with the scammers' favourite way of getting their hands on YOUR goods...
In the preceeding section you saw how the scammer is likely to fool you into thinking you are going to be paid. The next step for the scammer is to get your goods.
To do this, the scammer will do one of two things:-
- Tell you that [courier company] will pickup the goods *tomorrow*
- Provide you with a shipping label for [courier company] to send asap.
Everything is being done with a sense of urgency with no regard for timezones, working hours, or even that you actually have to go out to work. There are many people who would be faced with "Be at your address at 9am in the morning, FedEx will pick up the goods". Excuse me? I have to go to work! The scammers have little concept of your personal circumstances.
This being the final stage of the scam, once you actually send your goods, there is little hope of ever getting them back again. Favourite companies being abused are FedEx, DHL, UPS et al!
The scammers will have hijacked a legitimate account, and will be funneling the shifty shipments through it until it is noticed. This affects another party, the account holder. This individual will no doubt end up with a hefty bill to pay, and will no doubt loose his account. Alternatively the scammers will have paid for the account using a compromised credit card. In the latter case, it may take the courier company some time to get notification that something is wrong. By the time they do, your goods are long gone!
This has been a very brief look at how these types of dodgy deals work, and how to spot them. In all cases you should read all the advice given by the website you are using to sell your 'stuff'. As with all transactions... check it once, check it twice, and if is smells odd it's probably a bad one.
Be careful out there!
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