Today's post is a bit off topic but I know some of my readers are also online seller of some sort and I want to help out with some awareness of a not-so-clever scam.
Several weeks ago, I was contacted by a potential buyer to purchase two large paintings. The broken English in the email was a red flag, smacking of those spam lottery letters from the "Ambassador of ____".
After several emails the person asked to pay by check...another red flag.
I received a 2 day Priority envelope with a return address of California Institute for the Arts in Santa Clarita, CA. In the envelope was a check from a business named Accelerize New Media. Nothing else.
The check was made out for nearly twice the amount necessary. Red flag #3.
I emailed the customer to ask if the check was from her and started making phone calls. I called Accelerize and was told someone had been forging their checks and called Cal Arts and they said someone was targeting former students in a similar scam using the same address.
In the meantime, the prospective purchaser got back to me and copied the tracking # saying that it was her check. The next email said that I would need to forward the amount of extra funds to her husband and the paintings to an address in Miami Beach, FL. I looked up the address and found a 13.5 million dollar real estate listing. Nice try but I called the realtor and the house has not sold.
I did more digging and found out that the scam works like this--someone finds an online seller and pays by check but writes the (fake) check by more than is needed and then asks the seller to wire the difference back. The problem is that weeks later, when the check is deemed fake the seller is responsible for that money and the money that was wired is untraceable. That means that you are out the amount of the check, your goods or services and the money wired.
I have filed a mail fraud case but I really don't want anyone else to get sucked in by a scammer like this.
Luckily, the scammer was not very clever but had the addresses matched and the house seemed legit, I might have fallen prey. Be careful!