craigslist “Auto for Sale” scam doesn’t snare Mountain Home couple

By Robb Hicken/ chief storyteller

Allen Niksich, of Mountain Home, realizes there’s probably no way the scammer who nearly got away will be caught, so he wants to warn others.

Nix, his military nickname, says he placed an ad to sell his wife’s car on craigslist in April. They received only one response from someone who wanted to buy the car. The first part of May they renewed the advertisement.

“Within in a day, the gentleman again emailed my wife, saying he was sorry that he had not sent the check because he was out-of-town on an emergency with his wife,” Nix says.

The man, John Kean, promised full asking price, and asked if the car could be shipped, sight unseen, to Florida. He promised to send a check for $7,500 plus $3,390 for shipping, and asked Nix to send money to a car hauler back East.

“Being naïve, we knew we would ensure the entire amount cleared our bank, so we agreed to it,” he says.

The check arrived, and they deposited it into their Wells Fargo account, and began to wait for it to clear. Two days later, a bank clerk acknowledged the check had cleared.

“Still nervous about this, I decided to wait one more day to send the shipping money,” Nix says.

The couple felt uneasy as the buyer had taken so long to buy the car, but was overly anxious for shipping payment to be made. His immediacy was unnerving.

“Thinking that I was just paranoid, I went to Western Union,” Nix says. “I started filling out the paperwork, but told the customer service person, I was very nervous about sending the money, since this whole transaction seemed too good to be true and that all I had for a shipper was a name.”

The clerk advised Nix not to send the money.

“I shut down the transaction just prior to her hitting the send button, and thanked her for her time,” he says.

He returned to the bank, verified the transaction had been complete and, for a second time, was assured the money was in his account. Nix says he still felt uneasy, and did not send the money.

The next day, he explained his hesitation to the potential buyer, questioning why he had to send the “money” to the shipper. The potential buyer, a bit agitated, said it was legitimate, and was upset Nix and his wife would question his integrity.

The Niksiches went back to the bank and met a third clerk.

“Within 10 seconds of looking at the check, [the clerk] informed us that it was a counterfeit check,” Nix says. “And as we were sitting there, [the check] was questioned by their security department on her screen, and the check was put on hold,”

After that Nix says he confronted the buyer, canceled the deal.

“We ended up losing a $12 check fee from my bank and some shattered nerves and stress for the week,” he says.

Nix, who works on the Air Force Base while his wife is an elementary school teacher, says they thought they were lucky to have recognized the ploy.

“I have to believe 8 out of 10 people would have sent the money once the bank told the customer that the money was cleared in to their account,” he says. “Had we done that, where would we be now?”

BBB reminds :

  • Deal locally with folks you can meet in person. Follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts on craigslist.
  • Never wire funds via Western Union, Moneygram or any other wire service. Anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
  • Fake cashier checks and money orders are common, and banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.
  • craigslist is not involved in any transaction, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer “buyer protection” or “seller certification”
  • Never give out financial information (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
  • Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services and know that only a scammer will “guarantee” your transaction.
  • Do not rent housing without seeing the interior, or buy expensive items sight-unseen. In all likelihood, that housing unit is not actually for rent, and that cheap item does not exist.
  • Do not submit to credit checks or background checks for a job or for housing until you have met the interviewer or landlord/agent in person.
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