Investigators warn Internet trading scam more widespread than initially reported
By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor
Aug 17, 2007 - The old saying has always been buyer beware. Now, traders and individuals selling things must also be especially careful, especially when advertising business online.
Earlier this week, a Hopkins County resident reported that someone had attempted to scam them out of a large sum of money by pretending to be a broker for someone in another state. The broker went so far as to send a cashier’s check for more than the amount agreed upon, supposedly so the trader could send a portion of the amount back to him as a commission fee. The county resident was suspicious enough to contact sheriff’s investigators and have the check verified by the bank as valid. The account number was a “bad number” and sheriff’s investigator later learned the cashier’s check also was among some which had previously been reported stolen.
Following the incident, Hopkins County Chief Sheriff’s Investigator Andy Chester issued a warning to county residents about the scam perpetrated from an ad on Auto Trader, and to be leery of cashier’s checks sent for such transactions. He also advised anyone receiving checks to check with the bank to make sure they’re valid before “cashing” them and later finding out they’ve been scammed out of the amount of the bad check plus other fees.
By Friday morning, Chester said he’d been contacted by two additional county residents who reported similar incidents, and says the scam is worse than expected.
�It�s pretty widespread,� Chester said, noting that not only have bad cashiers� and regular checks been sent from as far away as Georgia and California, the scams also involve various online advertisers, including My Space classifieds and Auto Trader.
One person said within a short time span of placing ads for two vehicles on MySpace classifieds, they had received six “hits” with enquiries. After a few questions were asked, four of the potential bidders dropped out. Two others “hung in there,” however. One sent a check, which again asked that the amount be cashed, with the seller keeping a portion of the funds and sending the rest to the broker. Fortunately, the county resident had the bank check the validity of the check before proceeding further or released the vehicles.
Chester advises those who do trade on the web to be especially cautious, not releasing any property to buyers until they know for sure the check or payment is good.
The sheriff’s investigator also recommended using a secure method, such as a Pay Pal account, which can act as intermediary to verify authenticity of online transactions.
Any county resident who suspects they may have been the victim of this or any other type of scam should contact Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office at 903-438-4040 to speak to an official who is trained in these types of cases.