Last year I got hit with a scam that almost cost me $5,000. There were warning signs that I should have been aware of, but I was pressed for time and so I let my judgment slide. The scariest thing about the scam is that my bank cleared the check I received by a few days, making me think that all was good.
The first contact I had with the scam artist was thru my eBay messages. My item had closed unsuccessfully, and I received a message saying that he had tried to bid but a glitch had caused him to miss the deadline. He asked me what my reserve had been, and when I told him he offered me a few hundred over that price. He also asked if he sent me the extra money, would I arrange for shipping for him as he was located out of the country.
I didn’t feel comfortable with that, but he stressed that he couldn’t arrange shipping himself, and would gladly wait for the check to clear before I passed any funds on to the shipper. I didn’t think there was any way I could be scammed if I waited for the check to clear. I agreed.
The check arrived as expected, and I sent it off to my bank the same day so we could get everything done with. I did notice that check was from a large and well known charity. I thought that was curious, but it didn’t set off any warning lights for me.
The bank cleared the check as expected with no issues. I actually called them direct after I saw the funds in my account, asking if everything was good. They assured me that the funds were there. I went to Western Union to send the extra money on to the shipper.
That turned out to be more complicated then I thought. I was having all kinds of issues with Western Union. I had gone overseas and I didn’t have a US based phone number, so they wouldn’t approve a money order for anything over $999.99. I was trying to send $5,000 away.
While I was having these troubles with Western Union, the scam artist was sending me emails asking why the money wasn’t sent and getting more irate with me. He accused me of scamming him, and said he was prepared to “take action”. Upset, I was trying to do all I could to get his money sent on.
Finally, after two days and multiple attempts to send the money away, I finally gave up for the night. I came very close to using a friend’s phone number as my own in a desperate attempt to finish with the whole thing, but I didn’t want to do that without asking them first.
The next morning I woke up to find my bank account was frozen. When I called the bank they told me that the check I had sent to them had been reported stolen by the charity. They were investigating my involvement at first, as if I were a criminal. When they realized the whole story, I was cleared and my account reopened, but when I think of how close I came to sending away that money I shudder.
Hopefully no one else will be as naive as I was. I always thought that if the money was in the bank, and the bank stated the funds were there, it was a done deal. I never suspected that anyone could use a stolen check like that. In all, that wound up being a valuable lesson at a bargain price. I’m much less naïve and thanks to my ‘bad luck’ I was saved a LOT of pain.