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Craigslist Cashiers Check Scam – How to Spot and Avoid


I use Craigslist all the time – usually it’s painless and I meet with the buyer in person and complete the transaction, but other times I get weird text messages from strangers who want to send me a extra money to cover “shippers fees” or other ridiculous charges that you wouldn’t normally have to worry about. I ran into one of these scammers a few weeks ago when I was trying to sell a DJ Turntable, so I went along with it to see what would happen and I documented the whole process below to show people what really happens when scammers try to trick you on Craigslist. To most people, falling for something like this can be avoided due to the “too good to be true” principle, but for people who don’t use Criagslist that often or are generally too trusting of other people, consider this a guide to avoiding this type of scam in the future.

Note: Scams like this are illegal, although it is very unlikely the perpetrators will ever be caught because they usually originate overseas. These scams are usually violating multiple laws including Forgery, Mail + Wire Fraud, and Check Fraud, which is a felony in most states. 

Before you read this story, you should keep in mind that any person who tries to use a cashiers check is usually scamming you, even if the check looks legit. You should never accept a cashiers check from someone on Craigslist.

The Bait

The Craigslist scam starts off simple enough. With a text message that mentions the item and a introduction.

text 1

The first text received from the scammer

So immediately off the bat your BS alarm should be going off because the person doesn’t even ask if the item is available, he is probably using a web script to go through each Craigslist listing and scrape the title of the post, then message the owner of the item in hopes of a response. Most people will ignore messages like this, but because I want to mess with him, I’ll follow along and even ask for $50 more on top of the original price. Of course he will give it to me.

Also notice how he states he’s an Army officer. This will be important to remember later. Craigslist scammers usually use personas of people who are in the military, don’t ask me why, maybe it adds another layer of trust, or maybe it fits the story of being overseas. (But we have to beg the question…why exactly is Richard, a supposed Army officer, trying to purchase a DJ Turntable? Oh well, let’s continue and see how this plays out.)

criagslist scammer confused

He asks for my shipping address, and I gladly provide (You should never do this. By the way. But for the sake of the story I provided a fake name and an apartment address without a specific apartment number. Better safe than sorry.) By now you should realize the weird formatting of his messages, cutting off words at random places. That is because he’s probably using an online system like Google Voice, because the phone number he is using is rapidly replaceable and can be changed easily incase his number becomes associated with scams.

Part three of the scam

Richard provides a tracking number, and follow up to see if the package arrives

The tracking number is real. It does track the package. Richard asks me to take down the listing (probably because he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself and accidentally scrape the result again and message me asking the the same thing). Of course, I don’t take it down. Because I need to still sell it.

package from the scammer

Lo and behold – a few days after Richard sends the message with the tracking number, the package arrives. The “From” address is real and it looks like a company that was probably used at random, but it’s not located in the same ZIP code that the package was sent from. At this point our buddy Richard has spent at least $5.25 to ship me the flat rate envelope. I sleep well at night knowing that I cause the scammer to part with his $5.

fake cashiers check

This is the check that was inside. The remitter and signature are different. The document does not have microprinting, and screams low quality. It also feels like regular printer paper but it does have the serrated edges that you usually find on checks, so at least it has that going for it. At this point in time what people who have fallen for the scam do is take this to their bank and deposit it. The bank usually will not have a problem with it at all, the money will be available in your bank within the next few days, and you will send “Richard” the item that he paid for as well as the extra shipping money. About two weeks later you’ll get a message from the bank stating that the check you deposited was fraudulent, and now YOU are responsible for paying back the amount that you spent on Richards shipping agent, as well as anything else.

deposit cashiers check and asking him about the army

Notice, also, how Richard now is in the Marines, where earlier he said he was Army.

The Office of Comptroller of Currency sums this up real nicely:

The result of these scams is that the fraudulent check will be returned unpaid. The bank will then deduct the amount of the check from your account or otherwise seek repayment from you, and you will lose either the goods that you sold, the money that you sent to the third party, or both.

If you do find yourself a victim of scam like this, you’re really out of luck. Usually they are located overseas and mask their identity (Remember: Google Voice sets up a phone number for any area code you want, easily spoofing the caller into thinking that the text message comes from a local number.) You can try and file a complaint with the following locations if you really feel like you have a chance of recovering:

  • Scams, generally–Federal Trade Commission (FTC):by telephone at 1-877-FTC-HELP or file an electronic complaint via their Internet site at http://www.ftc.gov.
  • Internet-based scams–Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Fraud Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov.
  • Mail-based scams–U.S. Postal Inspector Service:by telephone at 1-888-877-7644, by mail at U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of Inspector General, Operations Support Group, 222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1250, Chicago, IL60606-6100 or via e-mail at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/MailFraudComplaint.aspx.

(Taken from occ.gov)

At this point in the story I took the check to the bank and reported it as fraud, but nothing will probably ever happen because, again, the scammer is likely overseas. I messed with Richard one last time just to see if he would send me another check, but I think he realized that he’d been duped and I was just trying to inconvenience him.

richard runs into problems

Messing with him at this point. The check was already shredded and I didn’t deposit it

The rest is pretty boring, just him messaging me asking about the check and me responding that the bank wouldn’t take it. Eventually he never replied and I’ve since forgotten about it, but I thought you might find it interesting to see what happens when someone falls for a scam like this, luckily I haven’t had to learn the hard way and have heard of this scam before I started selling on Craigslist, but for those of you who are just hearing about this now, I have one last word of advice:

Never, ever, accept a cashiers check from someone on Craigslist!

 

Jon Bottarini
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  • Renay

    Thanks so much for this article. I actually just had one of these guys message me and told them to EFF off. lol Have a great day! 🙂

    • Wiyre

      Glad it helped!!!

  • Randy White

    I am the same way, I love jacking with them and costing them money, making them pay postage on the check. When It arrives I hit them with the heartbreaking news that I contacted the bank to verify the check and guess what. I cant seem to be able to get that done. Then I inform them that most American banks have a new instant verifying system and this check is no good…..It just breaks there heart…..lol

  • Jeff Doty

    The first sign is when he asks if it is still available the title is exactly as it states on the ad. He is texting me right now. I’m going to mess with him too. It’s sad but I’m sure a lot of people still fall for this stuff.

    • DRS

      I knew something felt fishy with this sale. Your blog reads almost exactly like my experience. Got the check today and can’t wait to call them out. Glad to know I cost them the UPS postage!

  • Jeff Doty

    Notice the name I gave him in my pictures. The address is to our local Pinellas County Sheriffs Office.

    • jimcrich

      LOL, I gave the scammer the address of the local police for his “mover” to pick up the item – not that there is a “mover” at all! I plan to send back the scammer’s bad check if I get their address!

  • Scott Y

    Just got the same scammer, ticked all the boxes, over-payment, exact title, and another red flag they didn’t want any details on the item, even when pressed; I guess they didn’t even know what it was. At least they are out the overnight shipping. Thanks for posting this, saved a lot of headaches

  • Jillian Marohnic

    Haha this just happened to me and I had a feeling that it was strange. Searched and came up with your article. Thanks!!

    • Glad it helped Jillian 🙂

    • Ganeen Tucker

      Same here it helps

  • Angie B

    Thank you so much for posting this! Got the same exact scam and being new to Craigslist almost fell for it. Thank goodness I googled and found this! Saved a heartache for sure!

    • Wiyre

      Glad that it helped!

  • Thomas J.

    Just got the same scam. Have them the address to the FBI to send the check to and used the FBI directors name for them to send it to.

    • jobaafred

      Great idea

    • Ganeen Tucker

      Howww !

  • jobaafred

    This scam is running rampant. I’ve received 2 emails and 3 texts in 2 weeks for one item I’m selling. Most have vague description of the item. I just respond that I know it’s a scam. I love the idea of messing with the scammer!

  • Kaitlyn R

    Just got the same thing!!! Goes by the name of “Emily Bennett.” Wanted to send me more than the $600 for my washer and dryer, so that I could pay the moving company she was supposedly going to send to pick up the set. According to her, she was out of the area for a funeral and couldnt pick it up herself. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of this type of scam before I gave the person my
    address…now I’m a bit worried that they’ll use that information. I
    really hate people like this. Like come on.

    • I wouldn’t be that concerned about giving them your address. Usually they are all overseas and send out hundreds of messages a day trying to scam you. It’s extremely unlikely that anything will happen by just giving your address.

  • Jarmaine Evans

    Thanks for this post. It just happened to me as well. I posted an ad on Craigslist for a washer and dryer. The text messages quickly started coming.

    Same situation…they were in the military away on deployment and wanted to send me extra to pay the movers.

    Thanks again.

  • Jeffrey Doty

    Funny shit. And they keep coming. The sad part is people will continue to fall for their scam.

  • Mac a’Bhaird

    I’ve gotten these texts before and just deleted them. And just today received another. My question is, if the scammer gives me time for the check to clear, how can he scam me? Here is a copy of his text:

    “Thanks for the reply,am willing to pay the price and I will be paying you with a certified bank check and after fully clears with you, my movers will come for the pick up and i don’t mind giving you extra $50 to hold it in my favor.Text me with your Name & Mailing Address and i will have the payment mailed out immediately. Let me know if this is fine with you Today.”

    • He will not wait for the check to clear, he will try to trick you instead and pressure you into sending him money, probably with guilt. Ignore him and don’t fall victim!

  • RenegadeJay

    I have sold almost everything I own on Craigslist recently and I get these text often, I always provide a fake name and address and when they give me the tracking number and tell me the pkg had the wrong address I tell them I know it’s a scam lol

  • Brian S

    Just so you know, even with a legitimate cashiers check, the remitter’s name will always differ from the authorized signature. This is because the bank is issuing the check and an authorized signer of the bank will sign the cashiers check, not the remitter. What doesn’t make sense is that Richard is buying the item but Carla is listed as the remitter (though he could just say that’s his wife).

  • Douglas McFadden

    Thank you for this. It sounded fishy so Googled certified check craigslist. Glad I did. Here is our conversation. Haven’t heard back. Go figure.

  • Charli

    Thank you for your informative article! This just happened to me on Offer Up.

  • Albert Sutlick

    When you get the cashier’s check, just call the bank at their real number that you have looked up on the internet, give them the check number, the amount, the date, and the remitter, and ask them if they issued it. If not, you can have fun with the scammer feeling very good about it. If they did issue it, the check is valid since the bank won’t issue one until they have the funds in their hands, and it can only be cancelled by returning the voided check

  • KIKI

    It’s totally a scam that’s exactly what they tell you, they will give you extra money so you pay for shipping cost or an agent that just happened to me and the over payment me so I had to pay the agent $750 and sent a moneygram which if you’re trying to catch a scam if you send money thru moneygram is the worst company to deal with. I didn’t know Cashier’s check in your bank will clear the next day and then find out the fake check and fraud after you sent products, money or even both. The bank Chase couldn’t even verify another Chase Cashier’s check they noticed it’s fake after 7 business days. Please be very careful they stole me 750 dollars. I search in Google the phone number but no spam comments because they probably changed it. I filed a claim with my bank and a police report but the worst part is that my bank froze my account and they think I’m part of the fraud

  • W.

    THANK YOU for saving us from this scam! Your article was ‘spot on’ with what was happening to us! We are messing with our scammer right now. He is persistent to keep asking us to get that check deposited. Thanks so much!!!

    • You’re welcome! Glad to hear this helped!

  • Brittany Shirvani

    This exact thing just happened to me. It seemed sketchy that he didnt ask a single question about what I was selling and the phone number had an area code no where near me. So I searched google and came accross this- Thank you! The texts he sent are below
    _________________________________
    Thanks, lets consider the deal sealed. I will be using the services of a mover who will come on my behalf, to check condition and pick up. I will send a Cashier Check to cover the cost. Do provide full name to be written on check, full address,it will be required in order to issue and mail out check. Please delete the add from the site. Pick up will be made after the check has cleared. -Richard

  • Queie

    Help! I’m concerned. This happene
    d to me last night and though it felt fishy, I didn’t think I’d be at risk because he said he would send a mover, so I wouldn’t have to ship anything or pay anyone. So, in my exhausted stupor, I sent my address.

    I’m worried now that someone will show up at my home. I have already emailed him to confront him, told him that the address I sent was fake, and that I was reporting his account. But will he send a mover to my address? What can happen? What have I done?!

    • jimcrich

      They WON’T send any “mover”. They just want you to send “someone” some money for the so-called “mover” so PLEASE do not give them any money of any kind and tear up the “cashiers check” they will send you or have your bank VERIFY it but DON’T DEPOSIT IT!!! No mover will ever show up at your door or anybody else’s door!!!!

  • Diane

    Just happened to us to the “T”. We called the bank and they said it looked legitimate but we were still skeptical so we googled and your post came up. Thanks for your help!

  • MrsFuzzy

    Thanks so much. Just had a similar situation. At first I said ok to cashier’s check, but something felt off. I searched for similar situations and came up with your post. I just messaged back that I can only accept cash at the time of pickup and will not hold. I’m guessing I won’t hear from them again. I really appreciate you sharing your story!

  • Denny

    My scammer was a little more savvy and talked me down on the price. Hadn’t seen this article but ended up figuring it out. When he asked me to send the receipt to his cell, I sent him a picture of my bare ass. He called me a liar and I told him I had contacted the police and we would let them decide who was lying. Never heard back.

  • Recon Ranger

    I am glad I found this post. My wife and I recently had a death in the family and we are now in the process of trying to sell some of the items we inherited. We just don’t have the room. I have been using Craigslist to post them and sure enough I have received several test messages asking if they can send me a cashiers check for the items.

    After a few google searches, I cam across this post.

  • jimcrich

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9af1f8d7a899681958a70597922cfb3ff55108bb74948c87db5eded27db45a54.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3f84a15089c5286e163ef6274fda5d4126d282fb0f191f92ab9b787c5301c8a3.jpg

    Am in the middle of same scam over at VarageSale and have the bad check here. Waiting for Scammer to give me an address to send the “movers funds to then I’ll play dumb and string the idiot along for a little while before going to the FBI or post office with the bad check. I’ve seen this same scam before while selling my wife’s painting online.

    • Well done! Waste their money 🙂

  • Kathy N

    Yep…got the same exact deal on my phone — 3 people popped up at almost the exact same time….within 3-5 minutes after the post! None of them had a local area code (I know that with people moving around now this is not a “dead giveaway”, but it seemed off). They all wanted me to respond to their “Private email”….however, I started texting a conversation with one of them, and sure enough, they started with the cashier’s check thing. That’s when I went to the internet and found your article…thanks so much! I changed the ad to “local” and “cash only”. I texted all of them back with that information, and have heard nothing else from them!

  • tonio

    anyone gotten a text about buying items from a 424-284-xxxx number?

  • David Colliver

    Yes, just wanted to join in the fun as I just got the same scam attempting to sell a set of used snow tires. I was close to falling for it as I haven’t been on Craigslist for so long and the text came about 10 minutes after I posted so I was thinking, “oh wow, I’m going to be able to sell these tires real quick.” The text came from 424 area code and over time, things just smelled fishy and not right. Cashiers check, third party, everything listed in this comment thread they were throwing at me. I then pulled back after I realized what was happening and it was just “too good to be true” and sounded a bit too complicated. Very happy to have found this thread. Thanks for putting it together and adding to it.

    • Hey you’re welcome! Glad it helped!

  • Franc Newbury

    Wow! Thanks so much for this info! 12 hours after posting, I received a text from 775-470-6344 asking about my Craigslist item – their text read exactly the same as my ad. Wants to send a cashiers check. Their area code is for Nevada, I’m in Virginia. My ad states “Cash only”.

    Again, thank you!

  • Ganeen Tucker

    Wow this helped me before i turned into the big elephant in the room wow id get supposedly 900 and i have to deduct 300 for myself and make the payments to walmart keep reciepts 2 wow it seemed so legit ive been fooled its a horrible thing to do to people seriously im so happy my grandmother still has custodial lock on my account i love her for this i dont like making any fraudulent federal agreements online .