Downsizing; the dream of empty nesters. The constant conversation: smaller house, easier to care for. Fewer places to store “stuff”, less land to maintain, smaller rooms to manage.
After two years of looking for a more practical home, we find just the right house. Now we face the enormity of eliminating objects we’ve lived with for thirty-one years.
“It’s easier to decide what you want than deciding what you don’t want,” was the advice we get from those who’ve been through this culling process before.
“There will be furniture we won’t need in a smaller house”, we say. “What should we do with it?”
“Offer it to our family first,” my husband suggests.
Our children have different tastes than ours, their homes are already furnished, and our free offers leave us with the same large pieces we started with.
“I’ll call some charities”, I suggest, and I call them.
I can’t believe how particular they are, how fussy they are, and how difficult they are. “They act as if they’re doing us a favor by looking at good and valuable furniture that cost us a fortune to buy”, I complain to anyone willing to listen.
They reject almost everything.
“I’m sure there are there dozens of families who would jump at the chance to own these things,” my husband says.
But I don’t know who they are, where they are, or how to find them.
What options are left?
“Ebay”, we brainstorm. “I’ll run an ad.”
And so the drama begins.
The first object I list is an oversize brown leather sofa. It is a beautiful sofa with soft, sensuous, seat inviting leather, which we bought in New York at a respected furniture store.
I receive several inquiries but no bids. I know that for the price we are asking, $2,000.00, someone could own a beautiful sofa at a very low price.
Suddenly one morning the bid we are waiting for pops up on the computer screen.
“If we agree to buy your sofa for $2,000.00, will you remove it from the listing?”
“Sure”, we agree, and cancel the Ebay ad.
“Thanks. I’ll send you the check right away.”
The check arrives along with some specific but puzzling instructions.
It is from an out of state bank, made out to us for $6,000.
“Please deposit this check in your account and make out a check to us for the difference. We will pick up the sofa next Tuesday.”
This is peculiar. I don’t understand his directions, so I go to my local bank and ask to speak to Don, the branch manager.
“Will you please explain how to follow these instructions?” I ask. “I don’t understand what to do.”
Don examines the note and the check and says grimly, “I won’t touch this check.”
“But why not?” I ask.
“Because this is a scam.”
Fireworks burst in my brain at his words. Scams are things we read about in newspapers.
“What do you mean, a scam?”
“It’s been around for years. We were warned about it when it was first being used against our banking customers.”
“How do you know it’s a scam?”
“Here’s how it works: you deposit his $6,000 check into your checking account. Then you keep $2,000 for the sofa and write him a check for the difference, which is $4,000. He cashes your $4,000 check before his check clears. His check bounces. So now the $4,000 the bank gave him in the check he cashed is lost. We can’t cover the $4,000, so the bank goes after you and demands the money. You paid him $4,000 and you owe us $4,000, so you are out $8,000!”
That is the scam, and it has been used successfully against people like us, who know nothing about such dishonest deals.
I rush home and send the scam artist an email, my only means of contacting him.
“My bank will not allow me to deposit your check,” I write.
“Then try another bank”, he immediately responds.
“No. The sale is off. Should I return your check?”
He wrote back an angry, nasty, unprintable response. And then he disappeared. His email address was voided. I never heard from him again.
But someone else surely will.