Scam tries to target classified ad placers
SUMMIT COUNTY – Ked Martin took advantage of a Summit Daily News advertising special, getting a free “for sale” classified when he placed a “roommate needed” ad.
He listed his motorcross bike for sale, even though he knew there was a slim chance he’d sell it in the winter.
Much to his surprise, the Dillon Valley resident was contacted two days later by a potential buyer. Little did he know, the buyer was a con man.
The “Nigerian scam,” as bank and Secret Service officials call it, works like this: A person who has placed a classified ad to sell merchandise is contacted by the scammer.
The scammer is interested in buying, but makes up a story as to why he must send a cashier’s check for more than the sale amount. The scammer asks the seller to wire him the difference. The seller then finds out the cashier’s check is a fake.
“This is the most popular scam of the year,” said Kevin McDonald, president of the Silverthorne and Frisco 1stBank branches. “We get an alert from the FDIC at least once a week. We’ve seen it at our banks a couple times this year.”
Martin discovered the fraud before sending any money. He said there were several “red flags” that went up in negotiating the sale that made him suspicious.
When the scammer first contacted Martin, he did so through a special service offered by Sprint.
The service allows people to send e-mails to a Sprint operator who vocally relays the message to a third party over the phone.
“So you’re actually talking to a person,” Martin said. “But I got suspicious when I wanted his phone number and he wouldn’t give it.”
Martin said the scammer told him he had recently moved back to London and didn’t yet have a phone.
Martin also was suspicious when the scammer e-mailed a picture of himself – a 60-something man who didn’t look to Martin like a motocross racer.
Martin provided the Summit Daily News with the e-mails the man sent him.
Despite being a supposed “Englishman,” the scammer’s English wasn’t very good. The scammer also sent e-mails from a supposed third party, a shipping company that was to receive the bike and the money. All of the e-mails stress honesty.
“The reason why im (sic) sending this mail to you is to crave your usual sense of honesty and sincerity,” the scammer wrote in explaining why a cashier’s check would come from someone else.
He also steered Martin away from banks by saying, “I would implore you to get the check cashed in any check cashing grocery shop or check cashing point, so as to avoid any delay in sending the balance to the shipper.”
When Martin went to the Silverthorne 1stBank to deposit the check (a U.S. Bank cashier’s check), the teller didn’t recognize it as a fake. Only after asking persistent questions about how long it would take the check to clear was he directed to customer service and a manager. The manager quickly recognized the fake.
Once Martin was on to the con, he sent the supposed buyer a few more e-mails, asking him how many motocross tracks are around London and what elevation they’re at so he could adjust the bike’s engine.
After a few angry replies in which the scammer questioned Martin’s integrity, the scammer stopped replying.
McDonald said the scam is attempted not only with classified ads for cars and motorcycles, but Internet sale transactions. The common denominator, he said, is that the deal seems too good to be true.
Similar scams have been perpetrated this year on classified ad placers in Aspen. In those cases, people who placed ads for lost items were contacted by people who claimed to have found them.
These scammers claimed to have bought the lost item from someone while traveling through the area. The victims offered to buy the items back, but after sending their money, they never receive the goods.
Martin was glad he avoided a disaster and hopes other people won’t get stung, either.
“It feels good to know I could educate some people,” he said.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or email@example.com.
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