True stories with a twist!


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.


I am sorry to encroach into your privacy in this manner, I found your
names listed in the Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory here in

I find it pleasurable to offer you my partnership in business, I only
pray at this time that your address is still valid. I want to solicit
your attention to receive money on my behalf. The purpose of my
contacting you is because my status would not permit me to do this
alone. When you reply this message, I will send you the full details and
more information about myself and the funds.

Comments on: "SCAM, TAKE TWO" (43)

  1. Happy Easter

  2. Ronnie, I’ve learned the hard way that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Sorry you had this awful experience, because it makes us question the basic goodness of human nature. The truth is, of course, that there will always be opportunists among us; those so confused and twisted by fear and unimaginable events in their own lives who will continue trying to scam innocent people to their own selfish ends. Just a fact of life, I guess.

    • I suppose you’re right, Bela but I liked myself much more when I was not so suspicious of others.

      • Yup, it’s a tricky practice to keep in mind that most people, when given the chance to do good for others, will do so. But then keeping a weary eye out for those who take advantage. And subsequently not letting those shadow aspects of humanity ruin our mood or affect our basic good nature.

  3. I received a check from someone for an apartment. They were “moving” from England and wanted me to send a refund of the overage to a furniture company. I sent the check to the FBI as I realized it was a scam. I never heard from the FBI. When I moved from Elizabeth, NJ to Cincinnati I had an “open house” as I had emptied the remainder of items from two stores when I closed them plus furniture. I gave things away for pennies and wasted a lot of time. Some people have a knack for turning their things into cash but I found it very difficult. Did you try Facebook (my daughter-in-law unloads things that way), or your Jewish communities yahoo group?

    • I was astounded at how “picky” those charities were about what they would take and what they rejected. I know there are families who would have loved to have these pieces of furniture, but I had no way of reaching them, or of shipping the furniture to them.

      • I called the Salvation Army for an apartment full of furniture that a tenant had abandoned. They were very fussy and a table that just needed a screw they wouldn’t take. Unbelievable!!

  4. Yikes! Stories like these do make one very suspicious of one’s fellowman. There is a proverb that says, “Be as wise as serpents but as gentle as doves.” You were so gentle with this scammer but your wisdom gained from the bank revealed his true stripes. Great story and exellent precautionary tale. I’ll be on the lookout.

  5. The creativity of these scams never ceases to amaze me. I’m glad you weren’t swindled and it’s great that you are getting the word out there so other people won’t be victims either.

  6. I almost got it once myself. I did the same thing, contacted the bank. They are scum. Good for you.

  7. I occasionally get one of these (though the spam filter usually catches them). But when they are in personal contact with you (like going after your sofa), I think it’s definitely creepier.

  8. oops, that one is an obvious one.. .. I can see how you won’t be tricked again. c

  9. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone was honest? But that has never been and never will be. So we have to stay on our toes to watch and listen carefully. Unfortunately, this happens way too often.

  10. This is great advice, Ronnie. The only offers I’ve gotten is from some ousted Nigerian prince. I politely declined to respond. 🙂

    The scam artists do try to dupe innocent people. As soon as they are found out, they look for even more creative ways to part people from their hard-earned money. I’m glad you weren’t one of the victims.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story. It is important that we know about these scams.

  12. OMG! I have heard of this scam, but never quite understood. Thanks for sharing your experience(s). 🙂

  13. Ah ah ! this is always the same thing with them 🙂

  14. That was an important story, thank you. Sometimes I’m glad I’m computer illiterate!

  15. These scammers are heartless. So sad to see people tricked into them. Glad you escaped it.

    We’re currently spring cleaning our home and giving lots of items to the local mission. It’s amazing how much stuff a couple can accumulate over the years, especially with kids.

  16. It’s become so common now. An English couple with a small chateau near us were destroyed by the same scam. An American rock band purportedly wanted to hire the chateau for a promo, and the owners quoted some 40,000€ for the chateau, accommodation and meals for all the band and crew, etc. They duly sent the the cheque and a couple of days later cancelled. The cheque had not cleared, but the trusting couple refunded the 40,000€ and of course the cheque to them bounced. They lost their home and are now divorced. Not a happy ending.

  17. Snoring Dog Studio said:

    Ugh. How frightening. Unfortunately, the elderly and naive fall for these scams all the time. That’s why they persist. The perpetrators are some of the most vile people on the planet. Won’t get a real job so they spend their lives cheating people out of money.

    • They are smart people, and it’s always seemed a shame to me that they don’t use their intelligence for worthwhile purposes.

  18. Both of these scams (and many others) have been around for years. I was going to say that you’re fortunate to have avoided them all this time, but then I thought again. They work because decent, honest people have no reason to have their guard up. I’m glad you didn’t get cheated, and you’ll no doubt have a reflex reaction to similar schemes from now on. This post is a good idea. Tell everyone you know.

  19. Oh my! I received a similar recently, though mine was asking me to provide her with details of my bank account so she could pay in what she had saved up. She claimed she was trying to run away from her abusive father. The funny part, she sent me a picture (of what should be) her.

    Glad you were able to spot this.

  20. Lisa Honecker said:

    Ronnie, Mayors get these messages all the time from all over the world, I can usually tell by the sentence structure, India, Russia, etc. That’s why we have a SPAM button. good story.

    • You’re right that the sentence structure alerts you to the fact that they’re from foreign countries, but does that necessarily mean they have dishonest intentions?

  21. Oh-oh! I got something similar last week! Though mine was asking me for my bank details so she could send her money, because she claimed she had just run away from her abusive father. She even sent me a picture of (what should be) her!

    Scammers are everywhere. The bad news is that they are smart and technology savvy to surf around the Web, construct touching, sensible messages that elicit an action/set of actions from their recipients. I’m glad your were curious to find out more about this check and that your bank was willing to offer advice immediately.

    God forbid, they (scammers) should go into human cloning someday!

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