HILLSBOROUGH: Buyers, sellers cautioned about online scams - WNCN: News, Weather

Orange Co. sheriff cautions buyers, sellers about online scams

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -

An Orange County man's negative experience on Craigslist is serving as a cautionary tale for consumers looking for that too-good-to-be-true deal.

John Kennedy is always on the hunt for a car, so a posting for a car on Craigslist caught his eye and took him to Greensboro. He said his goal was to buy the car, recondition the parts and then sell them.

But when he and a friend arrived in Greensboro, they found a car that was in good shape and worth much more than the selling price --$1,300.

"It was a red flag from the start just seeing the condition of the car," Kennedy said.

Another red flag went up when a second vehicle pulled up before the transaction was complete.

"At that moment -- with that other person that pulled up and started fumbling through the trunk -- I didn't know if I had rejected [the car], we might have gotten shot and killed," Kennedy said. "I wasn't willing to take the chance. So the best thing was to hand over what he wanted, which was the money."

After buying the car from 21-year-old Dewayne K. Foster-Harper, Kennedy noticed its Vehicle Identification Number had been tampered with, prompting him to contact the sheriff's office. That's when he discovered he had purchased a car that was stolen in June.

The car is now back with its rightful owner and the Greensboro Police Department has issued a warrant for Foster-Harper's arrest, but Kennedy's story is not unique. The Orange County Sheriff's Office warned that within the last week, investigators have received several reports of what they call scams through websites like Craigslist.

Sgt. Butch Clark, with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said among the recent cases are buyers who send a check worth more than the agreed upon price and then ask for the extra money back.

"That's always a red flag," Clark said. "You never want send anything back to someone if anybody sends you a check that's worth more than what the agreed price was -- it's a scam."

Clark said the buyer may send a check for more than the agreed upon price to cover "shipping." The buyer will then ask that the difference be sent back to them through a Western Union check.

Clark said during one particular transaction that did not occur through Craigslist, a buyer sent a check for $2,000 more than the agreed upon price. But when the seller took the check to the bank, she found out the check was a counterfeit.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said too many North Carolinians fail to notice red flags and fall victim to scams online. He said it is important that people understand the signs of a rip-off before it is too late.

Protecting yourself

Cooper said the best offense is a good defense, and his office spends "quite a bit of time trying to educate people and let them know that this is a problem."

The Attorney General's office offers the following tips for protecting yourself:

  • Ask to test drive it, and even consider taking it to a mechanic before making a purchase.
  • Never agree to wire money in response to an online post.
  • Be careful about purchasing a car that you have not been allowed to see in person.
  • Beware of anyone asking for money before allowing you to get in the vehicle.

Tips that a posting may be a scam include:

  • Broken English;
  • a price that appears too good to be true;
  • the seller claims to live out of state and is unable to show the interested buyer the vehicle;
  • the seller promises to transport the vehicle after receiving payment;
  • the seller demonstrates a sense of urgency to sell the car quickly;
  • the seller cannot be reached by phone.

To alert the Attorney General's office of a potential scam, call (877) 5-NO-SCAM. A complaint can also be filed with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you have lost money, report it to local law enforcement.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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