This scam is apparently very common, but maybe new to some readers here. It first happened to us a couple of years ago. We did not fall for it.
We had a recorder, a musical instrument, laying around and put it on Craigslist, asking $200. We immediately received an enthusiastic response, someone looking for just that instrument. Please hold it, we were told, and take the ad down. Consider it sold. Rather than $200, we will be paid $250.
The next day a FedEx* package was on our doorstep, and inside a check for $1,500. Red flags were everywhere. It was written on the account of a New York City company that turned out to be real. I contacted them by email, and they said something like “Yeah, they’ve been using our account for this scam. Do not cash it. It will bounce.”
We were then contacted and asked to refund the difference, as we were overpaid due to a clerical error. That is the essence of the scam. It only works if the difference is refunded prior to sending the check through to bounce back through the banking system. That takes a week or so. In our case we would have been out $1,250 and still be the proud owners of a recorder.
I recently traded in my truck for a new vehicle, and took the tonneau (rolling truck bed cover) off to sell separately. I put it on Craigslist for $350**. This set the scam in motion not once, but twice. I expect today to receive a check in the mail, probably for $2,000 or more. We talked to our neighbors yesterday, and they had endured the same scam. Since Tom is an ex-cop, no way did they fall for it.
What is going on? As with most scams, they only need to work occasionally, and probably are most effective on senior citizens, of which I are one. They are monitoring Craigslist nationwide, and probably running hundreds of these at once, hoping for one or two scores.
I did report the matter to our Jefferson County Sheriff, but they were completely indifferent, probably too busy participating in fake school shootings to have time chasing down real grifters.
*This part was comical, as the FedEx package was fake too, a real envelope hand-delivered by someone who sneaked up the driveway. The return address was the home office of Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas.
**I sold it for $250 to a real human being.