Scam Alert Update May 23, 2003: No legitimate company will offer to pay you by arranging to send you a check and asking you to wire some of the money back. If you receive this offer, it is a scam. We urge our customers to use caution when buying and selling. Read More on our Scam Alert page.

No legitimate company will offer to pay you by arranging to send you a check and asking you to wire some of the money back. If you receive this offer, it is a scam!

Please read the information below about these scams:

It has come to our attention that there are scam artists who have been posing as foreign buyers and are contacting sellers using various web sites on the internet. The items usually sell for more than $5000. It starts when people from overseas posing as potential buyers of large items for sale on the internet, such as cars, ask the seller of the item if they can have an associate of theirs in the United States mail them a cashiers check for the amount of the item plus transportation overseas in order to expedite the process. They ask that once the check has cleared the bank, the seller withdraw the amount that is for transportation, and wire it to the buyer so he can schedule the shipment of the item. The check ends up bouncing and the seller is out the money that he sent for transportation.

Please read the information from the recent CBS NEWS article. While the vast majority of buyers and sellers have honest transactions, there are always a few individuals who misrepresent themselves.

If money is wired to you, or a check is sent to you, make sure that you speak to someone at your bank that truly understands the situation and has the authority to advise you.

Sellers should use caution when buying from unknown parties.

If you have been contacted by anyone wanting to buy your car with a plan that fits the description above, please contact the Yahoo Scam Support Group.

Also, you may want to contact the FBI or Secret Service.

Additional twists on these scams:

I have been notified by a customer that he was recently contacted by an individual from Vienna Austria and was sent a Bank of America Cashiers Check which turned out to be counterfeit. The email of the so called Austrian had a Yahoo address. The bank that the seller went to almost cashed the check but this individual was wise enough to ask the bank to double check. As it turns out, the scam was foiled. The seller still has his car. But, this scumbag buyer is still out there and I am certain he is trying to find another individual to fall for this same scam. 

Be careful and make absolutely certain that your funds have cleared and you have verified this with a knowledgeable person at your bank. When you are certain, double check again. Do not ship your vehicle until you are absolutely certain. Contact your attorney if you have any concerns. 

Additional Links:

Fight Back Against Scammers

Wired News: Nigerian Net Scam

Scambusters: The Nigerian Advance Fee Scheme

To the best of our knowledge, we are not aware of any customers falling for either scam. If you have been contacted by one of these crooks, we would also like to be notified immediately.

Big, Bad Banking Scam
Nov. 1, 2002

Jeff and Shawn Mosch were looking to sell their '61 Buick special.

So when they got a buyer, they were delighted. But as CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, the buyer was in Africa. That left the couple a little leery of his payment plan.

"Basically he told me there was a person in the states that owed him $8.800," said Jeff Mosch.

To make things easier, the African buyer said he would have that person, who was in Pennsylvania, send the $8,800 directly to the Moschs in Minneapolis. They would deduct the price of the car, $1,600, and then send along the balance to the buyer in Africa -- $7200. Sure enough, a cashier's check came in the mail.

But Shawn wanted to be sure, so she went to the bank and said, "I need to know when this is going to be a good clear check. When this is going to be actual money I can spend and it's never going to come back and bite me in the butt."

And she was told, "24 hours ma'am, no problem."

Feeling reassured, the Mosch's wired the balance to their buyer.

But a week later, the check came up as counterfeit, and the Mosch's were left holding the bag.

"$7,200 ... that's a lot of money," says Jeff.

The scammer was taking advantage of not only the victim but also the banking system -- specifically, the process by which checks are cleared. The con artists get their money before the banks discover their checks are bogus.

Susan Grant, with the National Fraud Information Center, cautions, "Just because the money is available for you to use doesn't mean the check is good."

That's because when a check is deposited, a bank first makes the money available to the customer, often in one or two days. After that, the check is sent back to its original bank. Only then is it verified -- which could take weeks.

The bottom line: if the check is bad, the burden is on the customer.

Nessa Feddis of the American Bankers Association says, "Customers, when they accept a check from a stranger, they need to exercise some caution."

And lots of it, because this scam comes in all shapes and sizes and is spreading throughout the country.

As for Moschs, Shawn says she feels more anger towards the bank than the scammer.

The bank told them today they have to pay up. And the car?

"It's still for sale, but cash only," they say.

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