Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Just moving some cash

"I will like to know if the above item is still available for sale and I will like to buy this item so pleas do withdraw the advert from craigslist. I will also like you to know that I will be paying via check," read the first typo-ridden reply Choi got.

Miriam Choi had decided to move to Kentucky to be with her parents and leave Brooklyn NY. She wanted to sell some of her furniture before the move and placed an ad on the free site, craigslist.org. Choi, a 31 year-old interior designer, was trying to sell bar and cabinet set for $725 when she received that first e-mail.

The site does warn users not to trust buyers from out of town who wish to pay by check, so Choi was skeptical of the buyer, who she only knew by the e-mail name "Heady Heady." The check, issued from City Bank of Florida and signed by someone named John Edwards arrived shortly. Instead of it being for $725, the check from Edwards, whom her buyer explained was his financier, was for $3,050.

Choi was wise enough not to ship the items until the check had cleared her bank and "Heady Heady" had told her to wait and then send whatever was left to his movers. After it had cleared, Choi did just that but after the money had arrived for the movers, the buyer contacted her again and stated he didn't want the item. He asked her to wire back most of the money and keep $135 for her troubles.

She was disappointed that she hadn't made the sale but she did figure that she had at least come out ahead by his giving her that money. Two weeks later though, Choi found out how really lucky she was, he bank contacted her to tell her that the check was counterfeit. Even worse was that they told her she was responsible for the full $3,050.

According to federal law, banks must make the funds available within two days but it may take several weeks to examine a check and find the forgeries. If Choi hadn't withdraw the money, her buyer may have complained angrily but she wouldn't have been responsible. She isn't alone in being scammed, both craigslist and Ebay state that scams abound out there and if you are in a hurry, you may not be as careful as you should be.

If the scammers are not extremely good with computers, large losses of money in these scams can be investigated through the use of the IP address that is on every e-mail sent out. The Internet Service Provider is not likely to give that information to the seller but in case of large theft, the police can be involved in the investigation.

As for Choi... she has listed the set two more times on craigsliat and both inquiries sounded like the same scam that she fell for the first time. It seems that some have discovered how to get trusting individuals to do their money laundering for them.

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