Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Beware of illegitimate purchases from classifieds
SEPT. 5, 2011
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By Kristen Miller
News Editor

Whether it be through the Enterprise Dispatch or other online websites, classified for sale items are now accessible to anyone with the Internet, making them wide open to scammers.

Two Cokato residents recently encountered a scam – nearly identical in nature – with items they had for sale.

Mike Ackerman was selling a bike this past May and he received a TTY call in response to his ad. A TTY or text telephone is used by hearing impaired or those who are unable to use a phone in a conventional manner.

Ackerman received the call from a TTY operator, who relayed the conversation between him and the potential buyer.

Since scammers of this nature are largely from Nigeria, with little formal education in English, this technique would hide their accent, according to Consumer Fraud Reporting.

Email addresses were exchanged and correspondence about the purchase continued. Note: email addresses are easy to create and will likely be common names.

“At first, I thought it was legitimate,” Ackerman said.

Then, the email began to sound fishy.

The buyer, who said he was from Illinois, began to explain how the transaction would take place.

Common instructions in these types of scams are: “I want you to know that the check that will be made out for payment will be in EXCESS funds, and it will EXCEED the amount of the purchased item, and the EXCESS funds on the check will be transferred to my shipping agency for them to able to arrange documents necessary and also come over to your location to complete pick-up, after you have received payment, taken it to your bank to cashed, or deposit and withdraw funds.” (Note the grammar and run-on sentence).

Ackerman then wrote back and replied, “Nice try!”

That was the end of any correspondence.

Toni Thorson also encountered the same type of scam when she tried to sell a violin.

Remember, ads placed in a print newspaper will likely end up in an online version, as well.

For a $250 violin, the buyer was going to send her two Moneygrams for $990 each.

That’s also when she determined this was a scam and e-mailed back telling him the sale was off. He hasn’t been heard from since.

What could potentially happen is, the seller will cash the check at their local bank and wire the money, less the amount for the item.

When the scammer receives the wire reference number the seller supplied, the money is collected and they cancel their original check, causing insufficient funds on the seller.

Wright County detective Tony Endreson said to be aware of two red flags, including the time when the email was sent and sentence structure. If it’s from a foreign country, it will typically be sent in the late night-early morning hours.

He also warns, that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, e-mails or mail suggesting you won the lottery, but requesting personal banking or credit information should raise red flags.

Also, when it comes to wiring money, make sure it’s only to someone you know and trust.

Here are other ways to spot a scam, as provided by the Consumer Fraud Reporting, www.consumerfraudreporting.org:

• The scammer can never meet in person, even when high ticket items are typically viewed before purchase, such as a boat or rental property.

• Scammers frequently ramble about things that aren’t relevant to the sale. For example, one of the emails to Thorson read: “How are you doing with your family? I hope you are fine and doing great.”

• Look for inconsistencies in names, phone numbers, and places where the buyer claims to be from.

• Look for a large number of misspellings, poor punctuation, and made-up words.

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