Classified Ad Scams

Scams related to classified advertisements are becoming increasingly more common nowadays. They are becoming so widespread that it is worth describing how they work, to try and prevent people from falling victim to them.

In a classified advertisement scam, a scammer responds to an advertisement that has been placed on the web or in a classified magazine. The advertisement can be for anything: a car, a motorbike, a boat, a computer... anything that is being advertised at a reasonably high price. Typical targets for the scammers are items that are advertised for sale on Ebay or on classified advertisement websites. More recently, scammers have been targeting different types of classified advertisements as well, including ones offering property for rent.

The scammer will express an interest in buying the item that is for sale. However, the scammer tells the vendor that he lives abroad, and that he would like to send the vendor a cheque to cover the cost of the item, plus an additional amount to cover the cost of shipping the item overseas.

If the vendor agrees to this, the scammer sends them a cheque or a banker’s draft for the total amount. The vendor pays the cheque or draft into their bank account, and the bank clears it immediately, making the funds available in the vendor’s bank account.

The scammer then asks the vendor to get in touch with the shipping agent immediately in order to arrange the shipment overseas. The vendor does so, and the shipping agent (another scammer) asks for their fee up front. They usually ask for the fee to be sent via Western Union to enable them to collect it immediately. As the scammer’s cheque or bank draft has been cleared by the bank as soon as it was paid in, the vendor agrees to this, and sends the shipping agent their money.

The vendor is usually then contacted by the scammer, who asks the vendor to send the rest of the money back as he no longer wants to purchase the item. There is usually a hard-luck story attached: one common story is that the scammer’s son or daughter has been involved in an accident or is seriously ill, and the scammer needs the money to pay for their hospital treatment. If the vendor agrees, they transfer the rest of the money back to the scammer, again probably via Western Union.

At this point, the vendor is still unaware that they have been scammed. They remain unaware of this until the scammer’s cheque or bank draft completes the bank clearing process – which can take days or even weeks – and the bank finally finds out that it is a forgery. At this point the bank withdraws the money back from the vendor’s bank account, leaving the vendor out of pocket, sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars.

In summary, you should be extremely suspicious if:

Do not be reassured if you receive a cheque or a banker’s draft and your bank clears it as soon as you pay it into your account; it may still be a forgery, and if so, you will lose out.