Investigators warns of scam involving Auto Trader, the Internet and bad cashier’s checks

BY FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Aug 16, 2007 - Sheriff’s investigators are warning local residents who use Auto Trader and similar publications to conduct business to be wary. At least one person has been contacted by a con artist, who went so far as to send a bad cashier’s check, for an item, according to Chief Investigator Andy Chester.

�This is a new scam, or at least I�ve never dealt with one like this. It deals with a vehicle listed with Auto Trader,� Chester said.

Precinct 4 residents had listed a truck on Auto Trader. They recently were contacted by someone thought to be living in Atlanta, Ga., by e-mail regarding the vehicle. The residents were leery of the offer to begin with, and the more dealings they had with the individual and incident the more wary they became.

The man who contacted them said he was acting as a “broker” for the someone else who saw the truck priced on Auto Trader. The “broker” then sent a cashier’s check which was unusual to begin with in that it was written for more than the asking price. Their suspicions were raised even further when the man asked them to cash the check into their account and split it, sending a portion of the cut to him via Western Union and keeping the rest.

The truck owners, exhibiting caution, contacted sheriff’s investigators regarding the incident and had their bank verify whether or not the $15,000 Bank of America Check was valid. The  bank confirmed the check was bad.

�It looks fairly legal,� Chester said of the check. �It was written for $15,000. The bank said the account number is bad. Further investigation revealed the check had actually been stolen out of Randolph Banking Center.�

Bank America in Randolph was contacted regarding the bad checks, and indicated they do not plan any further action relative to the incident. 

Since the scam was perpetrated over the Internet, local authorities anticipate contacting federal officials regarding the scam to see if the case is one the FBI will pursue.

Chester said that while this case concluded with no losses as a result of the scam, local residents should still be wary when trading online, particularly on Auto Trader if cashier’s checks are involved.

�This is a new scam. We get hit with several yearly, generally targeting the elderly,� Chester said. �This is one that could happen to anyone. Fortunately, in this case the local residents weren�t out anything. They still have their truck and they were out no money. People just need to be aware we have been hit in the last two weeks by this one. So if you�re doing business on Auto Trader or online be wary of cashier�s checks. ... If in doubt, contact us or have your bank check it out to make sure it�s valid.�

Contact the sheriff’s office at 903-438-4040 to report scams or to speak with an officer regarding what sounds like a scam.

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