Since the beginning of time certain people have always looked for an easy way to steal money from other unsuspecting folks. Centuries ago a well-known con-artist could fleece you out of your life saving and make you think he was doing you a favor. These charlatans would ramble into town steal people’s money and personal belongings, and abscond out of town before anyone realized they were gone. Today it’s gotten easier because they don’t even have to meet you to steal your money. They’re called scammers and they are located all over the world. These cyber thief’s use any means possible to gain your confidence and trust and then steal your money. It’s happening every day, all over the world to thousands of unsuspecting folks just like us.
Here’s a situations that happened to a friend of mine that happens to be a fishing guide here in the state of Florida.
It started out when he received an email from someone wanting to charter his guide service. They claimed to be coming from England and wanted to charter him for four full days of fishing for four anglers. They agreed on a price and date which was set for four weeks away at the end of the month. The price of the charter was $4,000.00 for the four days of fishing which included a gratuity. The Prospective client told the Captain they would mail him a cashier’s check for the full amount.
The client sent a Cashier’s Check from Regions Bank in Tennessee via express mail to the Captain, which he deposited into his Wells Fargo bank account. Two days later he received an email from the client indicating there had been a death in the family. The husband of one of the persons making the trip had suddenly suffered a heart attack and passed away. Unfortunately they were not going to be able to make the trip. They were terribly sorry for the inconvenience and wanted to know if they could get a refund of their monies? Because they needed money for funeral expenses right away, they were willing to allow the captain to keep $2000 for his inconvenience if he would send the balance via an American Express Money Order right away.
To make their frauds work, scammers depend upon trust and gullibility. Not realizing it might be a scam and that he could realize a profit, trustingly the captain had a money order made out for $2,000 and sent it off as requested. Three days later, his bank sent him a letter informing him the cashier’s check for $4,000 was invalid and the monies had been deducted from his account.
This captain was left holding the bag for $2,000 of his own money with no way recover his money. Once you send an American Express Money Order or any Money Order, in fact, it’s gone. There are thousands of fraud cases registered each year with the FBI and State of Florida. This can happen to anyone, not only charter captains. Whether you’re selling a car, home, boat, trailer or anything; the best thing to remember is the old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.
Things to watch for:
- An offer to send a cashier’s check for more than the purchase price
- Never send money back until you’re certain it has cleared your bank
- Communication via odd-sounding email addresses
- If they are demanding fast payment or refund
- It can often take months to clear all banks
So how can you protect yourself from a phony check of money order? First, if it’s for a relatively small amount like a charter, ask for cash or a credit card number. If it’s a long-distance transaction and you receive a cashier’s check or money order, call the issuer it’s drawn on and verify it’s good. Remember, never call the numbers printed on the check, because scammers often have people answering those numbers. Look up the bank’s number yourself. If they insist on paying by cashier’s check, you can have them use a bank with a local branch, which can ensure it’s valid. The U.S. Postal Service money orders are hard to beat for smaller amounts; although, they’re limited to $1,000. You can take it to a local post office or call the toll-free number (866 459-7822) to verify.