The fake check scam

Last fall I listed my son’s mountain bike for sale on Craigslist. Within minutes I had a live one on my hands!

According to the description,am okay with
the price and the condition pasted on cl. I am ready to make instant
purchase.My mode of payment would be in CERTIFIED CHECK and i will
arrange for a local pick up as soon as you get the check, because that
is the only inconvenient means for me and due to my work frame i can
not be able to get there and i promise everything will go smoothly.I
really wish to be there to check out the item but i don’t have chance
cause am very busy person (US MARINE). Concerning the pick up, i will
arrange for it after you receive the payment and it clears… Pls get
back to me with below info so that i can proceed with the payment
immediately if you are selling to me.

Full name on the check.
Full Physical Address: Not P.O.BOX
City, State and Zip Code
Home & Cell Phone to contact you
Total amount for the item

And as soon as this is provided, the payment will be overnight to you
and i will let you know when its mailed out. Thanks and i hope we
handle this in good faith while waiting to hear from you. i will add
an additional $30 so that you can hold it for me till the check reach

Best Regards

When you hook a scammer, it’s important to set the hook. If you’re too timid, they’ve already moved on to their next target. Here’s how I responded.

Hi Sara,

I have two people interested in looking at the bike next weekend, but you were among the first to respond so I’d like to work with you.

The bike belongs to my father-in-law, so make the check to him. His name is Lawrence Ellison.

Please mail to


I look forward to working with you. Are you stationed at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro near San Diego?


My question about MCAS El Toro is a shibboleth, but she ignored it.

After some more back and forth, “Sara Leigely” FedExed the check (in my name, not Ellison’s) to me. The selling price of the bike was $400.

Fake Check

I received this email shortly after; note the instructions to wire $1650 to a Western Union account for the “movers”:

Hello ,
i just want to thank you for the honest and trustworthy you are having
towards this transaction and i want to bring it to your notice that
the payment would deliver to you On Sat 10/12/2013 via fedex Currier
service and
here is the tracking number provided(165454515009854 ) so i would want
you to follow my instruction on what to do about the shipping freight
and hand ling’s and the pick up arrangement .So once you have the
payment with you now just get it cashed or get it deposited and deduct
your actual amount plus extra $100 for the trust and honest you are
having and get the remaining fund send Via Western Union International
to the shipper information below for them to come for the pick up in
your location since their freight and hand ling’sfee is been included
with your money cos they have some other items to pick up for me in
some locations so here is their information to get the funds send Via
Western Union :

Receiver Name=========Andrew Werner
Receiver Address======43 south mallard ave
zip code==============11784

This his how you gonna handle the money…

The check is for $2 150

$400 was meant for the (mountain bike)
$100 was meant for your Running Around
$1650 (Mover) Via Western Union

Western Union Charges will be deducted from the left $1650 and the
rest would be send to my mover As soon as you have the money wire to
my mover and done with Western Union i want you to get back to me
with the following information after deducting Western Union money

1,Current Map Quest to your location for the pick-up
2.Sender’s Name and Address
3.Actual amount sent after Western Union charges
4.10 digit Money transfer Control Number(MTCN #)
5. Current time for the pickup.

I will be waiting for the information as soon as possible so that the
pick up would be done any time from now

I sent an email asking the shipper to pick the bike up at 70 West Hedding Street, West Wing, San Jose CA (that’s the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office). The check remains uncashed. About a week later, “Sara Leigely” sent an indignant email saying she would report me to the FBI.

.this is just to let you know that there is no problem about
all what you have been hearing all transaction with you is
legit and it is 100% secure so i see no reason why the payment i sent
you at first cleared and you still hold my money with you cos the
company has called me that have you respond back to me cos they have
release the money for you some days back…But my response was that
you have never respond back ..That was what make me to get you
reported to FBI and what the authority gave me is 24 hours if you did
not provide the western union details of sending detail to Andrew..You
will be caught and charges for scamming pple money online…So what so
ever explanation or Advice you are listening all around is yours but
mine is that this morning i am giving the FBI that you have not sent
my money that u were giving me week..who knows before that a week would have ran away from your address….They can take it
up with u any time from now..

My advise to you is that..I want u to locate a western union around
you and get Andrew money send asap and u get back to me with immediate
effect to provide that to FBI for their confirmation that you have
sent the money.

What a hoot. I have no idea if the email is still good but feel free to email

How does the fake check scam work?

You’ll see the check I received looks like a cashier’s check. U.S. banks are required to make funds available from official checks within a day of deposit. You deposit the check and pull $1650 out to wire to Western Union as instructed. Scammers play tricks with routing numbers to delay routing, but eventually it comes back to your bank as a bad check, and you’re out for the entire value of the check.

How can you protect yourself? This scam plays on greed and naivete. Anybody who sends an official check for way too much money in the mail to ship a nondescript bike across the country should immediately be suspicious. It’s as simple as that.

In this particular case, note also that the routing number on the check is invalid. If you buy or sell on Craigslist, you should read Craigslist scams page.


  • Anonymous
    January 15, 2014 - 4:10 pm | Permalink

    This scam gets everywhere. I first learned about the format as a hooker, when I started getting emails from foreign travellers who just had to book me while staying in my unspecified country and wanted to pay in advance.

  • Anonymous
    January 15, 2014 - 4:22 pm | Permalink

    What would have happened to the bike had you shipped it?

  • January 15, 2014 - 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure there’s no actual shipper involved in this scam.

    If there is, it might be cute to try to attach a GPS with long life battery like they do in the movies and track down where the bike ends up!

  • January 15, 2014 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    All my Craigslist postings say that I’ll accept cash in person only, and that I will only respond to emails that include a time they would like to see the bike. Anyone unable to follow those simple directions won’t get a response from me.

    However, I nearly bought a bike from an email list that was about $700, with the seller intending to ship it. I have no idea how to make sure to do this properly though, since the first step would be me paying, in hopes that they ship it. If anyone has advice on how to do a transaction like that safely, I’m interested to hear it.

  • January 15, 2014 - 7:03 pm | Permalink

    it’s nice to know i wasn’t the only one that wanted to play. I was renting a room in my house and got contacted by a scammer who wanted to mail me the first month’s rent PLUS enough money for me to pay shippers to ship her BMW car to my house. I of course got the check and didn’t cash it. When they got back to me eventually wondering about why i didn’t send the rest of the money to the shipper, I told them i took the check to my bank and THEY said it was a scam. Then the scammer went away.

    there was no way on earth i was going to rent out a room in my house to someone i had never met (and who neglected to answer my questions, just like your guy)

  • Adam
    January 17, 2014 - 9:33 pm | Permalink

    My best advice – besides the usual stuff like cash only, meet in a public place, etc – is to put a tag line at the end of the ad saying that in our email you must type the word (blank). I use Ice Cream. This way any email you get without that word you just delete instantly. If they are just spamming you they wouldn’t write it. If they’re real they weren’t serious enough about it to read the ad close enough. Either way game over.

  • May 1, 2014 - 7:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this! Had the same exact message sent to me re: a watch I’m selling. Just took the text of the email and Googled. Grateful your site came up first. :)

  • Anonymous
    June 6, 2014 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    OMG, Dealing with the same “Marine” as I type. Just received a check for nearly $2000 for a $375 item that could be purchased new and shipped for free for $900. Good to know what’s coming when I don’t ship the item. Why can’t these folks be put out of business.

  • David Allison
    June 10, 2014 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    Same story here, but for a $200 woodstove. Had the scammer make the check out to “Hugh Jass” and FedEx to local police station. When scammer sent me the tracking number, I noted that the FedEx package was refused. Now waiting for his response. Maybe I’ll see how many times I can get him to fedex the bogus check.

  • June 10, 2014 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

    @David: Now that is pretty funny. I considered having the check made out to our local District Attorney with the mail sent to the consumer protection section at the DA’s office.

  • Anonymous
    June 26, 2014 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    Received a scam email from this person and their email Be on the lookout!

    My reply to Ron Taylor: I trust in god and CASH ONLY! As ad clearly states.

    Ron Taylor wrote:

    Thanks for getting back to me, so sorry i couldn’t respond early i had to visit a relatives that lost their daughter. i just want to let you know that am okay with the condition and price of the item .I am ready to make instant purchase. My mode of payment would be in Certified Bank Check via Postal service Express mail or by UPS courier service

    I’ll arrange for a local pick up as soon as you get the check cashed and have your money in hand , I would have really love to come for the viewing but due to my work frame that might not be possible and i promise everything will go smoothly.

    Kindly get back to me with your

    -Full Name
    -Full Address Apt # suite #
    -including your cell phone so i can instruct my financier agent to make out the payment to you .

    And as soon as this is provided, the payment will be overnight to you and i will let you know when its mailed out. Thanks and i hope we handle this in good faith while waiting to hear from you.

    Looking forward to read from you
    God Bless
    Ron Taylor

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