Sellers beware Featured

5:45am EDT December 11, 2003
The World Wide Web has not only broadened our business opportunities, it's also expanded the opportunities for scams and cons. And not everyone recognizes them when they happen.

Recently my sister and I placed a classified ad on a Web site seeking to sell a car we jointly own. The one and only response we have received to date has been a scam. The person e-mailed me expressing interest in buying the car as an anniversary gift for his wife.

The implicit message in that e-mail was that this was a person of financial substance. After trading e-mails a few times with more details and a history of the car, the person offered to buy it, sight unseen. The ad on the Web site does not include a photo.

He said in his e-mail that a client owed him $30,000, $11,000 more than our asking price of $19,000. He said he would have that client make the check out to me, but would I kindly send him the $11,000 difference so he could arrange to have the car shipped.

Red flags went off in my head and I didn't respond to this e-mail. After discussing it with several interested parties, including my sister, we agreed to sever contact with this person.

I have tried since then to do something about this potential con with little success. The Web site posts various warnings and disclaimers advising users to exercise the same common sense they would in other transactions, but it doesn't advise users that this type of scam could occur.

I also called the Columbus Police, who assured me that because a crime did not occur, neither they or the FBI (I was told it only deals with very high dollar amount scams) could do anything about it -- even though the detective I spoke with told me he had received a report of a similar nature a few months ago. That person did send the money to the "buyer."

So it falls back on us to always beware, and to spread the word. There are a lot of honest people out there, but the ones out to con us are using every opportunity they can.