Wichita Couple Warns of Scam Targeting People Selling Items Online

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Wichita husband and wife say they were almost victims of a scam targeting people trying to sell items online.

Now, they want to warn others about it.

Karen and Mark James posted an antique room divider on Craigslist. A month went by and they didn't get any response. So, when someone finally offered to purchase it, they say they overlooked some red flags.

"I thought, 'Yes! Somebody is going to buy it,'" Mark said. "I was careless at first because I was ready to get rid of it."

The first email Mark James received seemed fair enough. An interested buyer asked if Mark would come down on the $200 price.

When Mark said, "No," he got another email.

"He said, 'Well, I'll send a check. It will be FedEx and I'll arrange for my hauler to come pick up the room divider,'" Mark remembers.

That's when the scam really took shape.

The interested buyer sent one more message. It was about that check and a mistake he said his secretary had made in writing the amount.

"(The message) stated, 'Once you receive (the check), it will be for $2000. Go to your bank. Cash it and keep an additional hundred dollars and send me the remaining balance,'" Mark said.

After receiving that message, three weeks went by without any other emails. Then, the day before his birthday, Mark found a FedEx envelope on his front porch. All that was inside was the check made out for $2000.

"That put out the red flags right there," Karen said.

"We looked at it and said, 'Something isn't right. Something is wrong here,'" Mark said.

They say they had their doubts because the check had two New Jersey addresses on it. Neither of those addresses matched the return address which was in Washington state.

"That kind of tipped me off," Karen said.

Karen and Mark decided not to cash the check fearing it was a scam. Local experts say they believe had the couple have cashed the check, by the time they put the cash in the mail, the check would have bounced, leaving them on the hook with the bank for the $2000.

Karen and Mark say they want to warn others so nobody has to go through a similar situation.

"I know times are hard and the money sounds good, but do your research," Mark said. "They sound so professional on what they are doing but look at the addresses. Listen to what they say really closely because it's really a scam."

Police and other experts say, if it all possible, make your sale in person in a public place. Do not accept checks but rather deal in cash or a money order. They also advise people to never cash a check for someone at your bank. If that check bounces, the bank will held you accountable and you'll be stuck paying back the full amount.

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