Does someone in Benin really want my 93 Maxima?
April 26, 2005 12:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure this is a scam, but I'm a little confused...

I posted to craigslist about a month ago trying to sell my old car. Yesterday I got an email from someone claiming to be interested, but its style, etc, made me think it was probably a scam. Anyway, I replied just in case, asking if he/she wanted to come look at it, etc.
Now "Romy" seems willing to pay $1000 for the car and to have it shipped to him in Benin. My scam alert is going off big time. But here's the latest email I got:
THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPOND , REGARDING TO YOUR MAIL AND EXPLANATION,I LIKE YOUR INTERST IN THIS TRAMSACTION, WELL I AM FROM REPUBLIC DUE BENIN. I AM GOING TO ASSIGN A SHIPPER THAT ALWAYS HANDLE MY TRANSACTION. IN THAT CASE I WILL BEE ISSUEING OUT TO YOU THE TOTAL SOME OF ($2000) UNITED STATE POSTER MONEY ORDER IN YOUR NAME AS SOON AS YOU CASH IT YOU SEND THE BALANCE OF ($1,000) TO MY SHIPPER AFTER DEDUCTING ($1, 000) WHICH IS THE COST OF UR (1993 Nissan Maxima ) TO ENABLE HIM TO COME FOR THE TITTLE PICK UP AND SHIPPMENT PLEASE IF THIS IS OKEY BY YOU I WANT YOU TO SEND ME THE FOLLOWING INFORMATIONS TO ENABLE ME ISSUE OUT THE PAYMENT IN YOUR NAME.AND SEND IT TO YOU VIA ANY CORRIER SERVICE IN MY LOCATION.
YOUR NAME.
ADDRESS.
YOUR AGE.
PHONE NUMBER.
PLEASE GETBACK TO ME ASAP.
Romy.

So if he's sending me a money order, and I wait to cash it before paying his shipper $1000, how do I lose? If I send him the info he requests- no bank info or anything- can be burn me somehow just from that? This can't possibly be legit, can it? If it's not, can someone explain how the scam would work if I fell for it? Thanks!
posted by PhatLobley to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
 
Craigslist explains how the scam works here.
posted by amarynth at 12:46 PM on April 26, 2005


It is a scam. The check or money order is forged, and it may take some time for you to find that out. If you deposit the check/money order, the amount will eventually be deducted from your account whenever the banks figure it it's fake (maybe 3 or 4 weeks later), in the mean time you've sent him $1000 of your own money. No one ever comes to get the car.

Snopes article
posted by knave at 12:48 PM on April 26, 2005


Is it that easy to fake a postal money order? Since banks treat these as cash (i.e., pay out funds immediately, as opposed to the two week hold they often put on personal checks), wouldn't they be super careful to make sure the hologram, threaded inks, etc. were all in order?

Not questioning that this is a scam, just wondering how it could possibly ever work.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:54 PM on April 26, 2005


Broken English...Overseas shipping address (West Africa, no less)...large denomination payment via money order...bearing in mind that MOs, like checks, paper bills and even welfare stamps have been forged by determined criminals....

Yep. Definately a scam. If you want to make some cash off your old car, but don't need the money right away, a far better route would be to donate it to a community service in your area. The tax deduction would likely be ~$1400 or so, so long as you find a legimate outlet; the town hall or chamber of commerce can help you out with that. Plus you'd be helping others through your good deed!
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:56 PM on April 26, 2005


Actually the rules for deducting cars changed in 2005, so the deduction will not necessarily be so generous:
Next year, if the claimed value of the donated motor vehicle, boat or plane exceeds $500 and the item is sold by the charitable organization, the taxpayer is limited to the gross proceeds from the sale.
Donate Your Used Vehicle Before 2005
posted by knave at 12:59 PM on April 26, 2005


The NYT did a story today on fake US Postal money orders.
posted by caddis at 1:13 PM on April 26, 2005


Does anyone know how to avoid getting scammed on a transaction like this, within the US? It seems to me there's no reason why a US-based scammer couldn't use a fraudulent money order/cashier's check too.
posted by cali at 1:21 PM on April 26, 2005


I tend to assume any unsolicited email that's hopelessly rife with grammar/usage/spelling mistakes is some kind of hoax.
posted by elisabeth r at 1:59 PM on April 26, 2005


>Does anyone know how to avoid getting scammed on a
> transaction like this, within the US? It seems to me there's
> no reason why a US-based scammer couldn't use a
> fraudulent money order/cashier's check too.


Look for the pattern. If someone offers to pay you too much money for an item and wants you to return the change, well if its legit, why are they bothering you about it? We have institutions called "banks" that could handle it for them locally.

A scammer within your own country could do this. However it would be easier for you to pursue them. If someone from another country scams you, you are never going to find them. In parts of Africa scamming foreigners is just another industry.
posted by Ken McE at 3:39 PM on April 26, 2005


Does anyone know how to avoid getting scammed on a transaction like this, within the US?

Money orders that originate from within the US will "bounce" a lot faster if forged than those from outside the U.S. Plus U.S. law enforcement agencies are a lot more responsive than (say) Nigerian ones. Plus if the potential buyer is in the US, he/she should be accessible via a phone call, which (if this is the case) increases the risk on the fraudster significantly.

In short, while such a scheme could well work within the US, there are a lot of reasons why it's much more attractive (to fraudsters) outside the U.S., and much less prevalent in the U.S.

Or - to be more specific - you can avoid this type of scam within the US by (a) talking to a person face-to-face, if local, and on the phone (local or not) to size him/her up; (b) never accepting a money order for more than the amount of the item being sold; (c) giving the banking system adequate time for any forged money order to be returned. But life never comes with guarantees, at least unless you pay extra, so you avoid this type of scam the same way you avoid being mislead in other circumstances - such as trying to see if the other person's story really does make sense, asking others what they think, and trusting your instinct.

[On preview - what Ken McE said, too.]
posted by WestCoaster at 3:42 PM on April 26, 2005


(OT: This is perhaps the greatest ask.mefi page title ever.)
posted by docgonzo at 4:03 PM on April 26, 2005


You should take him up on the offer though. Except that instead of sending his "friend" the grand, you should keep delaying. Every second that he spends with you is a second that isn't spent scamming some other schmuck, and it's gonna cost him time and money to fake the money order. Hell, cash it anyway, and wait a month (look up the banking laws in your state: after a certain amount of time, any money put into your back account becomes yours, because it's the bank's job to do due dilligence). If it was legit, get in contact with his "friend" then. If not, well, you've just wasted his time (and you can blog about it for larfs).
posted by klangklangston at 4:26 PM on April 26, 2005


never accepting a money order for more than the amount of the item being sold

I don't understand this line of thinking. The Snopes and NYT articles both mention this as a warning sign. But in my mind, it makes no difference whether there's more money or not. In fact, if everyone starts keeping an eye out for the "more money than it costs" scam, scammers will just start sending the correct amount of money for the item. They get the item, you get scammed.

Seems to me that anyone doing business with money orders needs to learn how to identify forgeries: look for a proper watermark and the microstrip if you absolutely must accept them, then be sure to wait a couple of weeks before sending the item.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:13 PM on April 26, 2005


In fact, I sold a car to someone in the USA over the internet where he sent me a check for more than the sale price of the car. It was for a completely legitimate reason, and the sale went perfectly fine. So, as always, use your head and be careful. No rule of thumb is perfect.
posted by knave at 6:00 PM on April 26, 2005


But in my mind, it makes no difference whether there's more money or not. . . . scammers will just start sending the correct amount of money for the item. They get the item, you get scammed.


However, the current scams are not about getting the item, but getting cash back - offer up a thousand, get two hundred back. If the thousand is bogus, pocket two hundred. Cash is better than merchandise. A central theme of many scams is somehow they want you to put out some money. Usually your payoff comes later; here it comes first - brilliant.
posted by caddis at 7:24 PM on April 26, 2005


Civil_Disobedient: expanding a bit on caddis' reply - how it works is that the scammee cashes it, then sends that "extra" money back to the "shipper," who is of course actually the scammer.

Banks take money orders like any other check: then they try to submit it to the putative issuing agent for remittance. So, you get your $2K, send along $1K to the "shipper," in the meantime the bank finds it is not a legal order, and YOU are responsible for the $2K... meaning you basically just gave the scammer $1K out of your own pocket.

Scammers do issue bogus checks for merchandise, but then it is easier to tail it back to them, and of course they have to front stolen merchandise. With this scam, if it works you just get cash delivered to you, and PhatLobley is left owing the bank $1000 and the car still on his hands.

If you want investigate further, PhatLobley, email back and say fine, but his shipper will have to wait X weeks for the bank to verify the money order is valid due to problems with scams, once verified you will get the money to the shipper. See what kind of response you get.
posted by nanojath at 7:44 PM on April 26, 2005


I replied earlier today saying that I'd like to know who the shipper is. Normally he replies in a few hours, but I haven't heard back in close to 10. Looks like the deal is off. :(
posted by PhatLobley at 8:58 PM on April 26, 2005


This scam is common on Ebay too. A family friend's son was auctioning off an archery bow, and someone, supposedly located in Wisconsin, bid and won it. So, the winner sent the seller a cashier's check for $8000, when the purchase price was for $900. The buyer said to refund him the money. So, although it was fishy, the seller took the cashier's check to his bank, and it all looked legitimate. The bank deposited it, gave him the cash, and the seller packaged up and mailed his bow and the money (as a genunine cashier's check, I believe) to the address in Wisconsin.

Well, the original cashier's check bounced, and the seller was out not only his $7100, but the bow as well, because it disappeared. In fact, the FBI turned up on his doorstep to talk to him about it.

It does and CAN happen here in the U.S.
posted by cass at 10:05 AM on April 27, 2005


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