Red flags save seller from Internet scam
PRESCOTT - Richard W. Kimball nearly endured a tragedy fit for one of William Shakespeare's plays.
Kimball's tale begins after he agreed to help his wife's friend sell six tickets to the Utah Shakespearean Festival - and it almost cost him dearly.
"I knew it was a scam as soon as it happened," he said.
He went to a popular classified advertising website on July 14 to sell the tickets for $250.
Kimball got an e-mail that evening from "Matt Theo" asking if the items were still for sale.
After Kimball replied that he still had the tickets, Theo asked him to take down the advertisement.
Theo wrote that he would send Kimball a certified check and have someone fetch the tickets once he cashed it.
Two days later, Theo sent Kimball another note that he recently got married and was going to honeymoon in Dubai.
Theo wrote that he was sending Kimball a check for $2,610 and instructing Kimball to deposit the check minus the money for the tickets plus $100 for his effort and send the balance via money order to a man in Abbeville, La.
Theo's e-mails contain grammatical errors and express his desire to buy the item for his new apartment - a statement that didn't apply to this transaction.
Sadly, people in law enforcement and consumer protection fields say they are familiar with these types of scams.
Mary Hawkes, director of the Yavapai County Better Business Bureau, said she is aware of the check overpayment scam.
"That is one that we often warn consumers about," she said. "What will happen is the check will eventually bounce and the person will be stuck for the amount that they wired or mailed to them."
Hawkes said about six people have contacted her office about this scam in the past year.
"That doesn't mean it's not happening more frequently; that just may mean people aren't calling us about it," she said.
Hawkes said red flags include receiving checks that exceed the price of the item and requests to wire money.
"Just think very, very carefully with whom you are doing business," she said.
Prescott Police Lieutenant Andy Reinhardt said they are seeing a rise in these types of cases.
Reinhardt urges people to install anti-spyware and antivirus software on their computers and to use caution when receiving e-mails with attachments and hyperlinks from strangers.
Thankfully, Kimball didn't lose his wallet over this.
Officials at the police department and a local bank reviewed Kimball's e-mail trail and check and confirmed that it was a scam.
This tale ends with Kimball learning to use caution when doing things online.
"Be extremely careful when you are dealing with anyone online," he said. "You need to protect your own bank account. If it sounds like a pretty good deal, it's probably not."
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