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Craigslist, Mystery Shopper frauds surfacing

OBA is receiving numerous reports from all areas of our state citing instances where customers are falling prey to Craigslist and Mystery Shopper scams.

Just today, we have seen three separate cases where customers believe they are selling goods on the Web site Craigslist, they receive checks for overages and are asked to wire the additional amount to the "buyer." Please remind your customers that they should always be cautious when asked to wire or money-gram funds, particularly when they do not know the recipient personally.

Anytime you are presented with a check that might be from a Craigslist sale (or from the rapidly increasing Mystery Shopper/Shop-At-Home scams), remember to check first with the company named on the corporate check. The fraudsters are stealing and replicating checks from corporations across the U.S., and most of the checks we continue to see in these scams are written on real companies and contain their bank's real routing number and their real account number. In such cases, calling the bank will do nothing to verify the authenticity of the check but will only inform you that the company (i.e. Kubota) has funds available unless company and the bank are already aware of the bad checks' existence. These checks were never initiated by the company, and a call to the bookkeeping department of the company will nearly always verify whether you have been presented with a counterfeit check.

Also remember you never want to use phone numbers that are printed on these bogus checks or on in literature/instructions supposedly generated by a "mystery shopping" company. Obtain the phone number for the company by either doing your own Google search, or contact Elaine in our fraud division and she will assist you.

Once you have verified that the check is indeed a counterfeit, you should either retain the bogus check or clearly stamp or mark the face of it "counterfeit" in indelible ink before returning it to prevent it from being passed along to another unsuspecting financial institution.

The scammers are often targeting the "walking wounded" in these cases, choosing victims who have been out of work or are in desperate financial situations and therefore more willing to believe in their windfall good fortune.

There are valid mystery shopper companies, but their payments will only be around $10 to $20 per event and not the thousands touted by the fraudsters. You can learn more about the valid companies through their trade association, MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association), at this Web site: http://www.mysteryshop.org.

There are also valid Craiglist sales, however, you should remain aware of these red flags:

Buyer from overseas wanting to ship goods, cars to their location
Buyer sends check for an amount in excess of the cost (e.g., $4,980 check for $450 goods)
Buyer asks for overage to be wired or sent via money-gram to them
Buyer often poses as an "Okie" from another community
Good rules for your customer to follow include:

Buy locally
Never wire money
Watch for fake money orders
Be wary of guarantees
If you have any questions about this or other frauds, call Elaine Dodd, OBA Fraud, and she will be happy to assist you. Thanks for all that you are doing to protect your customers from these scams every day!


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