The Oldest Scam in the Book

I thought I would share an experience I had in the past day when I am almost certain a buyer tried to scam me. I placed a classified advert on bidorbuy for two jet skis I am selling (sold today). As an experiment I also placed the ad in various other classified publications.

I was quite pleased to see the first few responses come from my advert on Bidorbuy. My advertised price was R90k and I fairly quickly received an offer of R85k from a legitimate buyer that went to see the skis. While considering this offer, I had some one call me (from one of the other publications I advertised in). This person said they were from Secunda and would definitely take the skis (sight unseen). I told him I already had an offer for R85k. He said no problem he would pay R88k. Although a little surprised that some one would make that kind of commitment without even seeing the skis our discussion proceeded.

He said he needed the skis urgently (i.e. today – a Friday as he was taking them to Namibia leaving on Saturday) and he would send his driver to fetch them today. I said no problem I would meet with his driver but he would need to pay the money into my bank account before I would let them go. His response was he would send a bank guaranteed cheque with his driver.

I insisted that he rather do an EFT into my bank account. He asked who I bank with to which I responded Nedbank. He said he banked with Absa and FNB. Understanding that if you do a transfer from the same bank to the same bank the amount reflects immediately, I said he could make payment into my ABSA account. He replied saying today he is only banking with FNB. Fortunately I have access to a number of bank accounts so I said in that case he could pay into my FNB account. After a bit of an argument about why I would not accept a bank guaranteed cheque he said he would call me back in half an hour. Of course I never heard from him again.

Laying out the facts like I have above makes it a bit more obvious that I was most likely dealing with a fraudster but I can see how people can get caught out. Typically what fraudsters do operating in this manner is they would fabricate a fake (but virtually undetectable to the average person) bank guaranteed cheque (easily enough done now days with a computer and a colour laser printer). They will then get delayed for some seemingly legitimate reason arriving to pick up the goods after the banks have closed (note that some banks you can call to verify cheques up until 5pm even after their branches have closed). They are generally very convincing so the seller may allow the fraudster to leave with the goods with the unsuspecting seller only finding out much later that they have been duped by a fake cheque.

Analysing the situation afterwards the classic warning signs were:

  • Insisting to pay by “bank guaranteed” cheque.
  • Being in a hurry.
  • Sending a driver
  • Agreeing to make a large purchase sight unseen

As a seller the safest way to accept payment is by EFT i.e. seeing the money reflect on your bank statement before delivering the goods to the buyer. The one thing to look out for is if the payer deposits a cheque (a bad cheque). It will show up on your statement but the current and available balance will be different by the amount of the cheque until it has cleared. Only ship the goods once the amount has cleared (what are people doing still paying by cheque these days anyway).

This article was published on the Bid Or Buy blog in 2007. For more information about scams, check out the Safety & Security section on the Junk Mail blog.

Henno Kruger

Digital Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Junk Mail Publishing.

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6 Responses

  1. ComX.co.za says:

    They all follow a similar patterns.

    The order is always a rush, and the payment is by cheque, and they use a courier or a guy that they found off the streets, and pay him a few hundred Rands to collect.

    Sometimes, they deposit a cheque into your account and tell you it is a “transfer”.

    In our business, we have heard it all! And don’t think it is Nigerians that do it, it applies across the entire spectrum of colours.

    The cheques are usually stolen from a company, so they are legitimate,but of course the purchase is invalid since the cheque is stolen.

    We two guys here this week, the actual criminals, they insisted on paying by bank guaranteed cheque, and of course we insisted that they do a transfer as it was easier and faster.

    But no surprise here, the criminals never returned from their trip to the bank.

    We had one fool sending us a fake cheque from Uganda, but we had some fun, we told them to make it out to “ek is ‘n d**s”. It is very funny, they actually did it like that – just for us.

  2. Breinsel says:

    I think I got one…

    Barely minutes after posting an ad I got a response from JunkMail containing:

    Interested User’s Information

    Email Address: mr.nelsonjim2@gmail.com

    Message:

    hello is this item still available for sale?

    So I replied to the person via email:

    Hi

    Yes, it is still available.

    Regards

    Then he replied to me:

    Hello thanks for your email,i am so
    happy to read from you,i want you to
    get back to me with the total amount
    of the item including your bank
    details so that the money can be sent
    to you,i really wanna purchase the
    item for my son.please make sure that
    the item is packed in a gift wrap
    because i am buying it as a gift
    Thanks and get back to me with your
    bank details so that payment can be
    sent asap

    THEN I KNEW! So I responded:

    Sorry, strictly C.O.D.
    Price is still negotiable, and we can meet anywhere in Pretoria.

    ….

    I hope this helps the next person.
    And thank you JunkMail team for helping the public identify these Chancers!

  3. Mitchell Nortje says:

    Is an EFT safer? Can’t the transaction be reversed by the person. I am selling my car and am being very cautious. I have asked for Cash Only or a bank guaranteed cheque but the car will only be released once the funds have been deposited / cheque has cleared.

    Is this safe?

    • Henno Kruger says:

      Hi Mitchell – Yes, some banks allow people to reverse payments. Make 100% sure that the funds have cleared and is available for your use before you hand over the car keys. If you’re not sure if the funds have cleared phone your bank directly, don’t rely on an SMS

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