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Thursday, 01 April 2021


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My first reaction is wow! It is hard to know who to trust anymore. The good and bad in us is a truthful assessment but all of us can be reprogrammed (yes reprogrammed) to be decent caring, more studied and aware individuals. Respect for each other is the starting point.

The "extra" to pay the "mover" would have caused even more injury. You would paid the "mover" from the apparent extra on the check. When the check eventually bounced, your bank would have assessed those funds against your own account. You would have been scammed not only on the computer but also the additional $1,450. A really bad deal all around.


Good for you, Mike. I wish you well.

Dear Mike
I began reading your stories when my fifteen year old son would fall asleep in my arms as I quietly and patiently waited to leave him in his cot. So it's been a long time. You've proved to me time and time again you are good and honest person. I feel very privileged to have discovered your blog.

There has to be some way of harnessing the ingenuity of the criminal mind into solving the world's problems, doesn't there? And I don't mean politics (the crooks have been trying that scam for some while)...


Yep. If you're kind. And forgiving. You'll never be worse off.

And many times, you'll leave happy footprints behind you, for others to see, even if they don't follow in them.

Well done you, Mike.

Now we even have whole companies set up to enable scammers....like Kickstarter for instance.

A friend of mine (a retired auditor) is of the opinion that fraud isn't worth it unless it yields millions. The small scale scammers might do so much better if they put the ingenuity and effort into more productive pursuits. But maybe for some people, it about more than making a living. Maybe, they just enjoy back-stabbing other people. In which, case, your sermon in doomed to rocky ground. But there is always hope.

My problem with those scams is the host sites offer little to NO help when you make them aware their site is being used by scammers. Had something similar happen with a woman selling a host of pro-level Canon cameras and lenses from her late husband's business for $500. I jumped through a couple hoops, offered her info on selling them and getting a better deal through a legitimate retailer like B&H and KEH. She responded to me with a similar offer as you received, which I realized was a scam. But when I contacted the host site they did nothing!

At least YOU had the decency to share your experience as a cautionary tale for others.

Scamming the scammers can be fun. You take the only thing of value they really have - their time.
Some years back I got one of these turkeys on the hook for a small item for a couple hundred dollars. He sent me Canadian Postal Money orders for a couple of thousand over the item cost.
Went to the bank and "these are real" so told my bank to put it in a new account while we had the FBI check it out. They said it was a waste as "they are real" - and two days later called me with "don't try to spend any of that money - they are fake".

When the guy got ahold of me my response was simple "they have not arrived". So, no reason for my cashing and giving FedEx the overpayment as well as the item.

I strung this turkey out for five full cycles of Money Orders before he wised up and quit on me. He even let me know how let down he was with my playing games with his time and his money.

Well Mike, good for you taking the high road as always. This exact same thing has occurred to me three times now. The first incident involved using money grams sent to me Fedx, and they looked absolutely genuine. But it all sounded to good to be true so I called in the serial numbers and they were actually cashed several weeks earlier for far less amounts. The problem is if I had cashed these money grams it would have been my crime for trying to use a counterfeit money gram and I get dinged on my credit rating. I even went to the local police and then the local FBI office and they both informed me they would never track these people down. It’s a shame there are humans out there wasting time, energy and money spent on overnight delivery for their bad checks, lessons learned on both ends.

I'm 69 and I've given up on trying to "help" or "educate" people. It seems to me that all one can do is to try to be good example. I still remember some cool old folks who made me want to do it right... It's like deflecting an asteroid - little hits over decades.

["By example" is a great way to do it IMO. --Mike]

The type of scam you escaped from is not uncommon. My wife and brother-in-law inherited a Steinway baby grand piano from their mother. After some years, neither was able (or wanted) to keep it. Brother-in-law placed an ad somewhere online and the only response was from somebody in Switzerland who wanted us to ship the piano over there and then would pay directly into our bank accounts. When B-i-L called us with the "good news" and asked for account numbers, I had to explain to him that this was a scam.

I fell for a scam once when I was a poor college student. A guy showed up at the door of the apartment I shared with two roommates asking after one of them, who he said was a longtime friend. He seemed to know enough about the roommate that it appeared legit. He said he had a Nikon camera he was looking to sell, it was new, and of dubious provenance. In any event, I gave him the $25 I had on hand (everything I had on hand) and he went off to his truck to get the camera. And never came back. When I relayed this to the roommate, he told me that he fell for the same scam a year before, but for a lot more money than I laid out. Poetic justice for both of us.

Scammers get by with this stuff because there are hardly any consequences. It would seem to me that there would be a branch in law enforcement that investigates some of these type of crimes. Maybe they could be at your house when the "movers" arrive to pick up their check. At least maybe they could get the identity of some of the individuals involved and question them a bit. Oh wait, we de-funded law enforcement....darn it.

It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday in The OC.

Mike, I get scam calls eight or ten times a day. Everything from the IRS wanting to verify my SSN to fake bill collectors. I'm on the Prince of Nigeria's speed dial.

Data mining is a profit center for many businesses. Google knows that I'm in my eighties. They have sold this data to brokers who sell to scammers. There are several companies who sell scammers local phone numbers. Which you've seen in action up-close and personal.

Many scammers are employees who work in third-world call canters. They are not evil—just poor people who need a job.

Same scam was tried on me and my wife.

What a world.

Good job doing your homework on this, and maintaining a good attitude, not always an easy thing to do under such circumstances.

After reading some horror stories, I would never use Craigslist or have a garage sale. Some criminals use the fact that you are expecting a stranger to show up to lower your guard. I'd rather give stuff away than risk it.

Heh - I currently have an item for sale on Craigslist and received such an offer yesterday.

The scammer is good. S/he is insisting that I remove the item from craigslist becasue s/he has agreed to purchase it and s/he is worried that I won't live up to MY word.

Your scam story reminded me of the recent Mark Rober video entitled “Glitterbomb 3.0 vs. Porch Pirates”. You can find the video on Marks YouTube channel. Mark is a former NASA and Apple engineer who creates some amazing content. This year he improved his glitterbomb design and then expanded his scope to target phone scammers who just happened to be calling him while he worked on the glitterbomb video. The follow up video on the phone scammers (Glitterbomb Trap Catches Phone Scammer) is really interesting and shows how complicated some of these phone scams can be.

My Dads girlfriend fell for the much simpler Microsoft Tech Support scam and had her hard drive encrypted. Once she fell for the scam, the scammers sold her number and the calls never stopped. Luckily she had nothing of value on her laptop so the hard drive could be wiped and re-loaded. The fact that these scammers prey on seniors is infuriating. Everyone needs to educate their older family members on the current trends used by scammers and specifically ask them about any interactions with strangers online or via the phone. You need to be persistent, especially if you have a family member (or friend/neighbor) with memory issues. I appreciated the fact that Mark mentions in his glitterbomb video that the vast majority of people didn’t steal the packages left at a publicly accessible mailbox and some folks even went out of their way to find the rightful owner.

Persistence: “It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.” - Albert Einstein

Two weeks ago I also was almost taken by this Craigs List scammer ( https://eauclaire.craigslist.org/pho/d/eau-claire-canon-eos-5d-mark-iii-extra/7297471416.html ).

I can't believe this ad is still posted - in numerous cities. Unlike Ebay, there's no way to alert Craigs List to this scammer(an innocent omission, or an enabling and purposeful policy?).

When I contacted this local northern Wisconsin seller to ask for detailed information on this huge and greatly under-priced bundle of Canon gear, he responded saying that he was selling it for his mother because she didn't understand Craigs List, and that he'd have her contact me at my personal email.

After a couple of days the mother contacted me. She said that her husband had just died of a sudden heart attack and that she wanted to get rid of all of his expensive, like new gear for pennies on the dollar because it reminded her of him.

I responded saying I was sorry for her loss, and that I'd love to meet, look at the gear, and take it out of her life.

She responded saying that I could not look at it because she had just moved from Wisconsin to Montana to stay with her sister while recovering from a major throat operation to remove a giant malignant cancerous tumor. So she said she'd have Ebay contact me, advise me where to send my money, and that I'd have a 5-days return policy if I was not happy with the gear.

It was then my level headed Wisconsin farm raised wife stepped in and told me this story didn't make sense and that I was being scammed.

I realized she was right. I should have seen the signs (messages written using 5th grade level English, one unreal tragedy after another, like new gear offered at pennies on the dollar, a mother who could not figure out Craigs List but was an expert with Ebay, etc.)

I've seen other too good to be true photography gear scams on Craigs List. I guess that scammers have figured out that most serious amateur photographers are old guys (like me) who tend to believe what people say and are also slowing down mentally.

In a email conversation with a writer I have known for many years about the state of the Internet, I came up with a new definition for the acronym IoT, which in Internet-speak means “Internet of Things.”
My definition? Internet of Thieves.

As soon as I saw the words "Craigslist" and "cashier's check," I thought. "Oh no, they got him." I'm so happy to hear that you stopped the process mid-way. May your words do some good.

I see why enlisting a third party — the mover — makes it seem more legit. But I'm not seeing how the mover (probably the perp himself) is assured of getting your computer without being ID'ed. He might have a fake ID, but you might have a cop behind the door.

As soon as you wrote that she asked if you would hold the computer for the movers, I feared for you. I have experienced the same type of scam through craigslist when I sold a crotch maghogany chest. My "buyer" lived in upstate NY and wanted movers to collect it. I didn't bite as craigslist is a cash operation, but a cashier's check arrived the next day drawn on a real South Dakota bank. The check was not.

I once asked one of the nearly daily phone scammers, "Does your mother know what you do for a living? Is she proud?" Only later did it occur to me that he could easily have been working for his mother's outfit, learning the family trade.

Reminds me of hurrying to sell my Pentax 67 outfit before digital ate the world. Had a 45mm lens for sale on eBay, payment to be by cashier's check only. Then the top bidder sent me a personal check for $650 or so. Something like that.

Banks say that any check can turn up bad after any amount of time whatsoever. No way to know. So I told the guy I was going to wait, and after two weeks or so I got tired of it and sent him the lens. That was 19 years ago. Haven't heard back yet.

Sold the extension tubes to a guy in Italy who really, really wanted them. Somehow he came up with a U.S. cashier's check. But for some now-forgotten reason I could ship internationally only via parcel post, and no tracking available with that. But life is a crap shoot anyway, so...

About a week later I got a plaintive inquiry on the order of "...the tubes Pentax?" I replied "Wait a week more, and if you don't get them I'll refund your money." A couple days later I got another message something like "Tubes Pentax!!!!". So that turned out OK too, but I would have covered it because, though at times it becomes painfully obvious that I am indeed a close relative of Richard Head, I stand by my word.

Life works better when you make things turn out right, no matter what, even if it hurts. Even if you genuinely are a dick, mostly.

One thing to watch for if selling a car on Craigslist -- sometimes an eager-sounding potential buyer will request a vehicle history report from some obscure and costly outfit at the seller's expense "because my bank requires it".

I had already posted a link to a $5 history report I'd gotten as a courtesy and just got royally piffed when this "local" person wanted me to cover "her" costs for business between her and her farfing "bank".

Pure dumb (mute) outrage kept me from falling for that one, though others have. And someone really nice and really real gleefully bought the car a couple days later anyway.

So being honest can be hard work, and not everyone is going to like you all the time, but it's nice not having to hide.

Note: "Accidentally Wes Anderson" might be an interesting book.

I've lived all over the place, born and raised in Chicago, then my Dad moved us to Milwaukee for a job transfer. When I moved back to Chicago in my 30's for a job, I realized that I was living in an area that had a lot "looser" idea of what was "proper" or "ethical" or even "moral". Even people I came to respect, made me feel that some of their actions would not have been considered even "fair play". Definitely a city of "connivers" and schemers". Even the years I lived in Washington DC seemed more how a citizen should comport themselves.

Good on you for at least... trying.

That said, Craigslist can make eBay look honest. Can't tell ya how many scam artists wanted me to send them money without ever meeting them or visiting the apt/room allegedly for rent- one even sent a photo of "his daughter" just to prove he was on the up and up. Apparently, you can make it up...

I got contacted on a Craigslist sale by a similar scammer; "I'll sent a cashier's check for more than you ask to cover the guy picking it up, etc".
I responded with 'send your guy the check, and have him bring me CASH to pick it up'.
Never heard from him again.

Hi. About that check scam: I was a target of a somewhat similar scam a while ago. Didn't lose any money, fortunately. At the time, a bank security officer told me that the scam works because in the US at least, banks are required by law to make deposits available to the customer within a couple of days. However, it can take several days or weeks for Bank A to contact Bank B to reconcile their accounts, and discover that the check you deposited in Bank A, which was supposedly drawn on Bank B, was actually fake.

The unexpected possibilities of cashier's checks really socked me when I first heard about them (decades ago). I can see why some people have not been able to resist!

Boy, the number of scammers out there! We put four snow tires with rims on Craigslist in Washington state. Got an offer in 20 minutes from New York, saying they'll have someone pick them up and would we accept a "cashier's check" with the transportation costs added, which we'd pay (in cash, of course!) to the pick up folks. Being newbies to scams, we said, sure! Thinking about it and doing some searching, we declined the offer, but would complete the deal if the pick up person brought cash money. They said they couldn't go to the bank to get cash because they had cancer.... but, wouldn't they have to go to the bank to get cash, or a cashier's check (Unless they printed it on their own computer!). Anyway, we avoided the scam, learned something, and had a laugh. Ended up selling them to a local guy who showed up with American dollars.

Mike, this is a very common Craigslist Scam. In fact, I just had a similar experience. Some one offered me more than I was asking for my XT20. The catch, I would get the phony cashiers check and then I would ship them the camera. I politely replied that my AD had said local cash sales only. He got back to me with this reply: Why? I didn't respond, but I applaud your effort at attempting to make this person consider long term consequences.

I'm just perplexed that people still use checks / cheques in the USA; the rest of the world moved on the best part of a decade ago!

I sold a lens on Ebay to somebody in Singapore, from here in England. I got paid via Paypal, it arrived at the buyer's address, and I had a message from him complaining the lens had the worst haze he had ever seen.

Funny that; it had been lovely and clear when I'd parcelled it up a few days earlier. He said he'd accept it if I sent him a partial refund, but he didn't want it via Ebay. I was Mr. Reasonable and Helpful, in case he raised the matter with Ebay; I said he could send it back for a refund, but could he please send me some photos of the haze?

He didn't. He sent me photos alleged to have been taken through but not with the lens and some comparison shots said to be without it. They proved nothing.

Eventually he told me he was a professional photographer who knew what he was talking about, who had started taking photos in 1971. I replied that I had first picked up an SLR in that year, but it wasn't my first camera. That's when he accepted the lens.

He had wanted this lens, he said, for his Sony A7. The lens was a 17mm f/3.5 Tamron, a film era lens. It's a very fine lens on film, but rather soft on digital sensors. I think he hadn't done his research and didn't know this when he bought it. He'd become disappointed with it on his Sony, and tried to offset the cost of his mistake by getting some money back from me.

Sometimes they aren't professional scammers, but that doesn't mean you can't be ripped off. Every other Ebay purchase or sale I've had has been fine, though.

Glad you weren’t taken in by the scam. Joys of humans dealing with each other digitally and anonymously - not having to look one another in the eye...

On an unrelated note - as a PSA for those TOP readers living down under, especially in Melbourne, there’s an exhibition of Australian Impressionists at the NGV. Turns out COVID was a good time to take paintings off the wall and give them a clean. Disclaimer, I’m not employed by or affiliated with NGV in anyway way shape or form. I don’t even live in Melbourne (though I lived there for 9 months about a decade ago for work).
As a landscape photographer, I find these works inspirational. I might even have to buy the book of the exhibition ;~)

In my country, the whole concept of checks was abolished maybe five years ago. They simply don't exist any more - to the joy of everyone, all money transfers are now digital. This includes money to and from the government, between companies, and of course salary payments.

For our local version of Ebay or even local fleamarkets, I would estimate that 90% of payments are done using (traceable) mobile payments and the rest in cash.

This CL scam has happened to me too when I was selling an old mountain bike. I gathered the checks, yes they sent two checks, and tool them to the local Wheaton, IL police. I told the cops, lets catch these guys red handed, just be there when they come out. The Wheaton police wouldn't do it as it just wasn't on their radar. And that's the problem as there is no law enforcement.

Adding a couple of disclaimers (preferably in all caps) at the bottom of your Craigslist or similar ad should get rid of the vast majority of scammers: "Local Buyers Only" and "Cash Only" - Then stick to it.

To those, you can add, "First come, first served - will not hold for you"

If anyone contacts you and tries to get around one or more of those disclaimers, you can safely ignore it, as it is a 99.9% likelihood that it is a scammer.

I no longer use CL, but when I did, my email would be inundated with scammers. Putting up those disclaimers up front helped a lot, and having given notice I could easily ignore the rest. Hope that helps.

[Up here it doesn't work very well to not hold things for people, because they might have to drive for hours to get to you. If they arrived after driving a long way to find you had sold it out from under them while they were en route, I think they would be justifiably upset. --Mike]

I've sold off many cameras and lenses on Craigslist. I always conclude the listing with "Local only. Cash only," and almost no scams have been attempted.
However, within minutes of posting an item, an email or text message invariably arrives, "Is --- still available?" My guess is that they harvest contact information if you reply and get a few pennies for it somewhere.

Mike, a little late but just after reading about tyour scammer. I saw this performance by British comedian Joe Lycett. I thought you would enjoy it.

The classic ‘overpayment scam.’

My wife and I ran a small holiday rental business with a couple of properties here in the UK and got e-mails from prospective foreign visitors along those lines pretty regularly. They don’t vary too much, so you get to know and reject them pretty fast.

I get them at times too in my day job as an architect from supposed prospective clients. And just like the holiday let’s they often hail from Eastern Europe. Mostly Kiev.

I've had success with local Craig's List selling everything from lenses, to a Mac Pro computer, to a car. I always meet somewhere public and accept only cash. With the car I took a cashier's check but in that situation I went with the buyer to HIS bank and had the bank issue the check in my presence. The only people I've had to my home are people I already know. It's pretty sad that there are so many scams in this arena but the perps do it because it works!

Reading this post reminds me of just how differently people can think about the same scenario.

Mike's comment: "Will my little attempt to reach through do any good? Probably not. If the scammer is a sociopath, then certainly not."

Yes Mike, there really are sociopaths out there! If you follow the media, you've probably heard of Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz. (The Republican Party does seem to attract some dodgy people.)

IMHO, selling stuff to the general public is something to be avoided. Selling stuff to an unknown person via cheque (US: "check") is simply a no-no. Sure you might make a few extra bucks, but if you get ripped off, it's likely to undo all the extra bucks you made on previous sales.

I adopt the following strategies:

1. Only buy stuff you really need ... this reduces the amount of stuff you need to sell down the track.

2. Buy at a good price. Or a price you can afford to lose on if you have to sell it. i.e when you buy something keep in mind how it could pan out if you had to sell it.

3. When it comes time to off-load the item, try second-hand stores. Or friends / work colleagues. Or give it away to a charity shop. Or leave it out on the verge as a freebie. Or the recycling depot. Or the rubbish bin.

In other words, if you feel compelled to sell an item to a stranger (especially by cheque), then it's a red flag for *your* buying habits.

My favorite sentence in the whole piece was this one: "Maybe my suggestion doesn't do him or her a lick of good, but the attempt to reach another human does me some good." I liked the whole piece.

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