Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scammers on the Loose

Most students don't view their textbooks as an adventure. They read them -- actually, no they don't --, they fall asleep on their pages, they spill energy drinks on them.

I, however, attract scam artists with mine.

I bought this book for my Astronomy class:

Because a new edition was coming out, the bookstore wouldn't buy it back from me. Or any of my books from Spring. Bastards...

So I put it on Facebook Marketplace, a tool I'd never used before but my friends sold stuff on all the time.

I got a message from an interested buyer and we exchanged some e-mails. He was obviously foreign. A few e-mails in I realized this was a scam.


Because he wanted to send me a check for the money. I was asking $45 for the book (brand new), and he said he'd send me money for the shipping people who would come and pick it up from my place because he was getting a few items from the area. Oh... and he'd throw in an extra $50 for any "inconvenience" the transaction caused.

Red alert. You're going to pay me double for my item?

He mentioned Western Union in all of this and I e-mailed him back saying I would not work with Western Union. Please, I'm not stupid. Why do you think craigslist and ebay say DO NOT USE WESTERN UNION.

He ignored this and told me the check would be here today by UPS (!) and that I was to cash it immediately, keep my side of the money, and send the rest through Western Union money order to the shipping company.

Ha. That's what you think.

Almost 10 minutes after I got the e-mail, the doorbell rings and a UPS truck is outside. Not wanting the driver to see me and be able to verify that I did indeed get it, I waited until he drove away. Which does nothing except satisfy my inner suspicions that he could be a spy.

Oh look, an envelope on my doorstep. With a check! Oh boy!

For $1,950.95

So minus my share ($95), the shipping company is charging you $1,855.95? I don't think so.

And then my phone started ringing. Withheld number. Answered it, knowing it had to be them.

"Is this Lindsay?"

"Um... no."

"She gave me this number."

"This is not her number."

"Hello?... hello?"

Hang up.

They call again. I don't answer.

(He's stopped calling... so that's the best action shot of that I can manage.)

Okay, so yes... I was the dummy that at first thought it might genuinely be a college kid trying to get a textbook. He's got my name, address, and phone number.

I've got... several of his addresses. Because the starting point of the UPS envelope tracking is from one place. Carnesville, GA. The last e-mail sent was signed from Lula, GA. The check and actual envelope list Spring, TX.

Eenie meenie minie mo?

Needless to say I will not be attempting to cash this check. Because I'll get the funds, send the money via Western Union, and then the check will turn up bad. Which means I'll have to pay the full check value from my accounts AND a bad check fee. That's how these things work. I'm not entirely stupid.

So for any of you who have gone through this, how do you suggest I further handle this? Because I don't know a real name (he went under Tran Peterson up until today when it was signed Peggy Hamby). I don't know a real address.

Is it possible for me to go to the police with the check and have them trace it and the origins of the UPS envelope?

Or we could just entertain the notion that this is an honest transaction and he's just a really good tipper.


  1. I have no suggestions on how to handle this in the future but man, that is creepy, weird and a lot of work to scam someone. I *do* think you should contact your local police department and/or federal authorities (as it is interstate).

  2. I'd definately report it.

    Also do Facebook have some responsibility? Not sure about them with regards the marketplace...but other online companies would have a degree of responsibility if it was a scam. Certainly worth telling them as he could be doing this to others.

  3. I have absolutely no idea how to deal with that check (regarding police and all) but I would suggest that you sell your book on! I've had items sell within 2 hours of listing them, and I've actually made a profit on some, based on what they were going for when I bought them, versus when I sold them!

  4. I've reported it to facebook as his profile was one to watch for scamming.

    I can't sell it on (that's where I've been selling all my others) because this particular book is an edition made for just my university, so the ISBN isn't even listed in any textbook online database.

  5. I am in the same process, probably with the same person. I am selling a banjo on a different website. This same group, or person sent me a second email with a different name but the same email address. Then the same process, mentioning Western Union and the name of Peggy Hamby in Lula, GA. That is when I researched the name to find others scammed the same way. I sent back a reply email that I would not be cashing the check.



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