Scammers Posing as Buyers

Scammers Posing as Buyers
They want to buy something from you, pay with a check and have you "Western Union" the excess money

If you have something to sell, there is a scammer waiting for you.  It doesn't matter whether you own a business, a website, or are just selling something via a classified advertisement. If they think they can con, they will try.  The scam is basically passing a counterfeit check to you to cash, then have you wire the money via an irretrievable, untraceable method (Western Union MoneyGram) to them or their cronies, who are located in a different country from you.

How does the scam work?

The scam works because banks take days or weeks to clear checks, and since the checks are forged based on real accounts (usually from checks stolen from people's mailboxes), your bank will cash it, based on funds already in your account.  By the time it bounces, the scammer has collected the money from Western Union, and has disappeared into the woodwork in another country (usually Nigeria).

And he gets away with it because what law enforcement agency in your country is going to go to Nigeria to hunt down a small time con man who gave you a fake name and address?

Who do the scammers target?

The scammers go after anyone or any business who is willing to take a check as payment. Are you looking to sell a timeshare, a house, or rent a house? If you have an ad in newspapers, online classifieds, Craig's list, Yellow Pages, magazines and other online classified advertising websites, from E-Bay to Yahoo Stores or even just a storefront, a scammer will be looking for you. 

The names and places given are certainly not the scammer's real name or location, may be the names of real people who are unaffiliated with the scam.  They may even be the names of real employees of the companies the scammers claim to work for - the scammers can easily get their names by walking into an office, showroom, or from a company's website. Again, if someone tells you,  his name is "Joe Blow", how can you verify that he is this person? Driver's license is a start, but these can be forged, too.

What are the general clues that this is a scam?

  1. First, you will notice the way he speaks or writes; notice the syntax and grammar.  Often, is it not pathetically bad, it's just plain strange. It looks like it was written by someone who is not a native English-speaker, and writes very rarely in English. This is very typical of scammers, who largely are in Nigeria and have little formal education and probably none in English.
  2. Next, he wants to write a check in excess of the required amount. Why? That makes no sense at all. If he hasn't got a bank account, he could always pay in cash or get a money order.
  3. Then, he wants the "excess" from the check sent BACK to him or to other individuals, often in many different locations, and always by Western Union or Money Gram! Alarm bells should be going off by now.  Western Union wires and Moneygrams are not only untraceable, they're irretrievable.  Once the recipient picks them up (which can be done at ANY Western Union office in the world), the money is gone, gone, gone!
  4. And then there are the little clues; signs like the strange name change.  First he's "David Rapheal", then he's suddenly Shawn Nickolas, supposedly in England, yet the first name has an American spelling and the last name is spelled more like an Eastern European or Germanic origin.
  5. Look at the huge number of misspellings, poor punctuation and made-up words.  Again, this is typical of the scammer filth who live and operate in Nigeria.

Examples: actual emails and anecdotes that illustrate this type of scam:

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