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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Scammers have a message for you: Surprise!

Jan Quintrall

‘You can take it highway cruising or through the mud, although I have never taken it off pavement. It is selling for $8,200. You can drive it home from Spokane if you don’t mind your hair getting a little messed up. If you would like more information you can respond to this ad or email me … . Thank you for looking. By the way, as for any con-artists out there, I know how the scams work so don’t bother. I’m not going to accept your inflated payment and I won’t wait for your ‘pick-up’ vehicle to arrive.”

This is part of an actual Craigslist advertisement one of my staff members posted. But a funny thing happened on the way to selling this dune buggy. That last line in his ad prompted people to contact him who had been or were being scammed in the overpayment fraud that happens every day.

The concept behind this scam is simple: You have something to sell or a roommate to find. You receive more money than you requested, and the buyer acts like it was a mistake and asks you to send the overage back with the item or send a check if it was spent in a rental or roommate position. You do, and 10 days down the road you find out their check was phony, and you are now out the money and, many times, the item you were selling. We had one of these cases in Yakima that involved two expensive horses. The loss was huge.

Craigslist has so many disclaimers and warnings about rip-off artists using sellers as victims, I sometimes wonder how people continue to fall for this kind of scam. But read on.

Most of us seem to have a long-lost relative who has recently died, and now some attorney is searching the world for needy kin to give a gazillion dollars to. Oh boy! And just to make our lives even happier (and wealthier) we get a check in the mail for several thousand dollars, because we:

•Won some lottery we never entered.

•Have been selected as a secret shopper and are receiving some spending money.

•Received a grant just because we are good Americans.

But they want us to put the check in the bank and send them back a bit of money for all sorts of reasons. OK, if they sent me $6,700, I would be happy to send them just $1,500 back. I am still way ahead.

Well, no, that is not really how it works. Sorry. Yes, the checks look real, and yes, they are often drawn on legitimate banks with real accounts. But when you process it, you will discover it’s all a joke – on you.

We get so many calls on these scams that we have a special recorded message just for people calling to ask about such offers. The sad thing is that many do not want to listen; they want the windfall to be true, and sometimes will not listen to our factual description of the scam.

But even more annoying, in this employment climate, are all the work-at-home offers that continue to entice people. There are few of us who are not looking for ways to make a bit more money. But if they want money from you up front, it is a scam. End of story. After more than 20 years of doing this kind of work, I have yet to see a real offer that required an upfront fee. Don’t fall for it. A real offer is not going to be found on a yard sign or a homemade piece of cardboard stuck on a telephone pole. Do some research, and don’t be a victim.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at or (509) 232-0530.
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