CALL 6: Scammers target Craigslist sellers with fake checks

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man from Indy's west side wants to warn others about a fake check scam targeting Craigslist sellers.

Ken George listed his 2009 Saturn Outlook for $4,100 on Craigslist.

“I got an inquiry from someone wanting to purchase the car, but I thought it was a little strange because he didn't ask any questions about the condition of the vehicle," said George.

George exchanged texts with the buyer who claimed to be in California.

An enveloped arrived from Louisiana with a $6,500 check.

The buyer told George he included extra money for shipping and handling, and asked George to go to Walmart and wire $2350 for a “transfer fee” to someone in Texas.

"They just wanted me to deposit the check, and then write them a check and go to Walmart and have it wired,” said George. “I was like ‘no, that's not how this works.’"

The check did not clear.

"I took it to the bank to verify the funds, but the bank said the funds were not available,” said George. “At that point, I knew this was a scam."

Call 6 Investigates contacted Locke Supply Company, the company listed on the check sent to George.

Accounts Payable Manager Linda Porter said the checks are fraudulent.

Porter said she’s aware of at least 75 fake checks sent out by the scammers that appear to be from their company.

“They somehow got our banking information, our physical address and our logo,” said Porter.

Porter said people selling items on Craigslist and eBay are being targeted by the scam.

Locke has notified its bank’s fraud department, the Federal Trade Commission as well as the United States Postal Service.

Call 6 Investigates called the Craigslist buyer’s cellphone, which had an Atlanta based area code.

No one answered, but the voicemail indicated the person was using the TextMe app to text with George.

The scammer keeps texting George, wanting his money.

“This morning’s text says ‘the check has been completely cleared and my money is in your account’,” said George. “But it's not.  I checked the funds last night and there's nothing in this account."

Thankfully, George held onto his car before sending the scammers any money, but he knows other people may fall victim to the scam.

"If they're not asking questions about the vehicle, and if it feels weird, there's probably something weird going on," said George.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau provided Call 6 Investigates with the following tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of this fake check scam:

  • Most importantly, never release a vehicle to a buyer until you have confirmed that payment is valid. There are very convincing scam artists cruising the internet and if a seller is too anxious to close a deal, they’re very likely to fall for some scam. 
  • Never take the contact information for a bank from the buyer; do your own research to contact the financial institution to confirm funding
  • Don’t sign over a title until everything is confirmed and payment is received
  • Find a safe location to do the exchange; many police departments offer a safe space on or near their facilities for just such purposes
  • If possible, obtain identification from the buyer and write down the information, including any vehicle that the buyer is in
  • If you are dealing with an out-of-area buyer, take even more time to make sure everything is legitimate
  • Lastly, follow your instincts. If there is something that makes you uneasy with a transaction, walk away from it. There is always another buyer for your vehicle—if you still have it.

Click here for tips from Craigslist about how to avoid scams

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