eBay, Craig’s List Users Targeted in New Scam

Oct 2, 2007 10:02am

Selling something on eBay or Craig’s List? Watch out for who’s signing the check to buy it. Tens of thousands of Americans are being targeted by the latest scam sweeping America, many of them targeted online through Craig’s List and eBay. Scammers overpay with counterfeit checks that look so good most banks accept them. It’s only after victims have sent the overpayment amount back to the scammers that they learn the checks are no good, and they are out the money.  Photos: Phony Checks Targeting Americans U.S. Postal Service officials say they have seized more than $2 billion worth of high-quality counterfeit checks coming from Nigeria, England, the Netherlands and Canada. But, they say, many more phonies are still getting through. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. That’s the kind of check Jill Parker, a pharmaceutical company manager in Richmond, Va., got in the mail. Using Craig’s List to rent an apartment she owned in Chicago, she was contacted by someone moving from London. "He was going to send me a check for $25,000," she told ABC News. "I was to deduct what he owned me for the first month’s rent and the security deposit, and I was to wire the balance back to his agent, who was handling his furnishing." She took the check to her bank and called a few days later to see if it had cleared. Told that it had, Jill, as agreed upon, wired the remaining $21,000, thinking she was ahead $4,000. "Everything looked great; everything went fine until about a week later," she said. The bank informed her that the check was no good and had been returned not paid. And Jill, not the bank, was out the money. American banks say they are required by law to make the money available well before a final determination is made as to whether the check is good. "Certain funds, for example, have to be available on the day after deposit," Nedda Feddis, senior federal counsel for the American Bankers Association, told ABC News. "And the fraudsters are taking advantage of that rule." Good Morning America Video: Phony Check Scam Hitting America There have been tragic consequences. Chris Soens, suffering from health problems, thought she got a dose of good news in the mail when she won $90,000 in a supposed European lottery. Once the check had been deposited and posted to her account, Chris wired back $40,000 for what she was told were fees and taxes. When the check was discovered to be a phony, the bank told Chris she had to repay the entire amount. Her sister, Rebecca Woodworth, says it led to suicide. "I think she was devastated," she said. "I think she was plunged into depths of despair knowing that everything she had was gone." The problem has grown so large that the U.S. Postal Service is launching a nationwide TV campaign starting tomorrow to warn Americans about the dangers of the bad check scam. The Postal Service has also set up a new Web site to educate the public on check fraud: www.fakechecks.org.
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