Check" or "African Buyer" or "Overseas"
is an old scam making the rounds on the Internet with a slightly different
angle. It first gained national attention in January of 2003 (do
search for "cashier's check scam" and you'll
get hundreds of results). These scammers are all over the
Internet targeting anyone selling high-priced items such as
cars, boats, airplanes, and yes, even horses and horse
equipment. Their goal is to find a trusting seller to whom they can pass
counterfeit cashier's check. The scammer entices the seller with
a cashier's check made out for more than the purchase price
and a request for the seller to refund the difference.
scammer usually starts by sending an email inquiry about the
horse or item for sale (see sample) but doesn't ask the type of questions you
would expect from a legitimate buyer (although this is changing
- see below). If the seller responds, the scammer eventually
brings up the subject of a cashiers check that his
agent/client/friend/relative/etc. will send or deliver. Sellers may may receive
multiple nearly identical messages from different email
addresses; the same nearly identical message may also go out to
hundreds of different sellers. Frequently the scammer has poor
English language skills. In some cases where contact is made via
telephone, the scammer pretends to be deaf and
uses an interpretive service.
With the BAENmail system in our
new Classifieds, it's still possible for scammers to send you
email messages if you include an email link in your post, but
the scammer cannot see your email address or save it to a
mailing list. They are not hacking the database, they are
manually browsing public web sites just like other legitimate
visitors and clicking on email links. Other horse commerce sites
like Dreamhorse, Webpony, etc. are also being targeted (probably
because of the preponderance of high-ticket items for sale -
scammers go where the money is). Web site security is not the
issue - these scammers are not hacking computer systems, they
are manually browsing public web sites just like other
legitimate visitors and clicking on email links. The only
foolproof way to avoid receiving email scams or spam is to not
post your email address on the Internet.
We suggest you treat
messages of this sort like spam and other unwanted email and
delete without responding. See tips
on avoiding spam.
Variations on the Cashier's Check
On 12/11/03 one of our
advertisers contacted us to share the following: "A
couple of my trainers have been receiving a new type of
fraudulent email. One almost shipped a horse out. Here's the new
scenario: Someone inquires to buy a horse with a cashier's
check, no vet check needed. The inquires come thru email, but
they may call you too. They will send you this cashier's check
that is fraudulent. The fraud is not caught until the cashier's
check gets back to the issuing bank. Your local bank will
probably not catch that it is phony. Then the person calls you
at the spur of the moment that the horse needs to be shipped
tomorrow. The hauler has been arranged and will arrive tomorrow.
They ask for you to pay the hauler."
This is the basic Cashier's Check
scam with the added twist of a phone call and pressure upon the
seller to ship on a moment's notice.
The scammers know that savvy
Internet users are on to them, so their pitches
are evolving. Scammers are beginning to ask 'normal' buyer's
questions about the condition of the horse or item for sale in
order to appear more legitimate, yet their slightly-off-key
messages will still ring alarm bells for most sellers.
Some Commonsense Advice
If it sounds too good to be true,
it probably is. Even though you've posted a for-sale ad, whether
electronically or in print, you are
under NO obligation to sell to anyone, no matter who they are or
how much they offer. You are NO obligation to respond to an
email or phone offer that makes you uncomfortable in any way.
It's YOUR item for sale on YOUR terms, and anyone who is put off
by your legitimate efforts to protect yourself and your property
can take a hike. Treat suspicious emails like spam and delete
upon receipt without replying.
Your best protection is to insist
upon cash paid in person, direct deposit to your bank account
via wire transfer, or PayPal. Do not ship your horse or item
until you've verified the money is deposited safely in your account. If you
feel you must accept a check, insist that the issuing bank clear
the check before the horse or item leaves your control (this can
take 7-14 days, which is why the scammers pressure you to ship
NOW). Don't allow ANYONE to pressure you into a sale.
If you're a Scam Victim...
see resources at Scam
To file complaints
in the US use the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Complaint
Form or forward suspected scam email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Canadian Complaints contact the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police. For more information on this scam, please view Google
links for reporting scams and spam, contributed by BAEN users
Sample Cashier's Check Scam
We've posted a selection
of Cashier's Check scam messages contributed by our users. If you received a scam message that is
substantially different from these examples, please forward
to us and we'll share it here.