HOWARD LAKE, MN A Howard Lake man was recently the target of an attempted scam resulting from an ad he placed on Craigslist, according to Howard Lake Police Chief Dave Thompson.
One mistake the resident made was including his personal cell phone number in his ad on Craigslist, Thompson noted.
“They tell you not to do that,” he added.
In this case, the scammer contacted the Howard Lake resident directly via text message.
As in many similar scams, the scammer told the victim he was going to send a check for more than the cost of the item being purchased.
In this case, the cost of the item was about $180, and the scammer sent a fake check for about $1,800, Thompson said.
Often, scammers will ask the victims to cash the check, and then send the extra funds to another party via wire transfer or other service.
If people fall for the scam, they may not discover the check was fake until after they have spent their own money.
In the case in Howard Lake, the resident cashed the check, but did not ship the item or transfer any funds.
His local bank did not penalize him for the bad check.
“Please remember to use caution when making transactions with individuals who you do not meet in person,” Thompson advises residents.
This is the first time he has encountered a scam involving Craig’s List, but Thompson said there have been similar cases involving Howard Lake residents.
One resident was notified he had won an overseas lotto that he did not remember entering.
The resident became suspicious and reported the scam to police right away.
In another case, a resident was informed he had been chosen to be a Walmart secret shopper.
The scammer said he would send the resident a check, and the resident was to cash the check and use it to purchase gift cards, which he was then instructed to send to a third party.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Thompson said. He encourages residents to report suspected scams to local law enforcement.
He said sometimes residents feel hesitant to contact law enforcement because they don’t want to bother them, but Thompson advises people to contact police if something seems suspicious or doesn’t seem to add up.
“People don’t understand they (scammers) can spoof phone numbers,” Thompson said. They could be calling from Howard Lake, and the phone number on caller ID could show Florida. They could be calling from overseas, and it could say they are in Howard Lake.
Thompson said the volume of reports of scams has been fairly consistent since he took over as Howard Lake’s police chief two years ago, and the scams involve the same general idea, but the specific tactics used by scammers changes over time.
He advises residents to use caution, and said there is a lot of information available online regarding scams and how people can protect themselves.