I can’t believe how many people still fall for scams. I continue to hear calls of people buying a “TV”, “VCR”, or “laptop computer” from some guy in a parking lot only to find out when they get home that the “actual sealed box” contains bricks. Or the people who send thousands of dollars of “good faith” money to someone in Nigeria who says they inherited millions of dollars and promises people part of the fortune to help them get the money to the U.S. Or the common Pigeon Drop Scam.

In the pigeon drop scam, swindlers work in pairs or teams. One befriends an unsuspecting consumer, the "pigeon”, (usually an elderly person) while the other approaches them with money or valuables he claims to have just found. After some rehearsed conversation, the con artists agree to split the money three ways with you and arrange to meet at a lawyer’s office or somewhere else of their choosing. But can they trust you, they ask. To get your share, you’ll need to put up some "good faith" money, which they will return to you after the goods are divided. To prove yourself trustworthy, you turn over a large sum of money to them and later go to meet them at the designated spot. Soon after arriving, you realize the pair is long gone — and so is your money.

Unbelievably, a lot of people still fall for this scam frequently. The list goes on and on. People’s greed often makes them let their guard down or not follow their “gut” instincts. I just finished an investigation that EVERYONE needs to know about. It’s a scam that is claiming victims every day across the country. Here’s how it works:

“Buyers” are searching Craigslists ads all over the United States and responding to the ads telling people that they want their item (laptops, cameras, jewelry etc). The “buyer” tells the person that they will pay via PayPal, the online money transfer and banking site owned by eBay. The “buyer” tells the person that they will add an additional $80 or $100 to ship the item overnight.

The “buyer” often states that they are out of the country and request the item be shipped to a U.S. address. The “buyer” then sends the person a very realistic looking but fake PayPal notice stating that the buyer is a confirmed buyer with a verified address. The fake PayPal notice states that the money has been deducted from the buyers account and is being “held” until shipping confirmation is verified at which time the money will be credited to the persons account.

The scam I investigated was using an address in the city where I work. Unsuspecting victims shipped laptops, cameras, jewelry and all kinds of items to the requested address where a middleman resold the items and sent the “buyer” the proceeds after keeping a cut for himself. The money is usually sent out of the country, in my case, Nigeria. The sellers of the property never receive payment because the e-mail notice was a fake notice from PayPal.

I recovered 4 laptops, several expensive cameras and diamond rings at the residence. There were several empty boxes where the items had already been sold. All of the victims stated that the PayPal e-mail they received stating that the money would be deposited in their accounts after the item was shipped looked very official and real. I posed as the middleman and began corresponding with the “buyer” online who was telling me what items were being sent overnight; there was expensive jewelry, game consoles, more laptops etc. It was an unbelievable amount of merchandise that people were unsuspectingly shipping without any knowledge it was a scam.

I use PayPal myself, it is a fast, secure and protected way of making purchases or receiving money. But please be aware, there are scams using fake PayPal e-mails like the incident above. PayPal DOES NOT hold money until shipping is confirmed. Sometimes a transfer may show as pending but all purchases, transfers and pending transactions will show up on your PayPal account statement. If someone tells you they sent you money via PayPal, log on to your account to verify the funds were sent. You are protected by PayPal this way. Everyone that fell for the scam did not check their PayPal accounts until it was too late. PayPal could not help them because the transactions never went through PayPal, they were all fraudulent fake e-mails.

I see several “phishing” e-mails that try to claim victims. Scammers send out very realistic e-mails with logos from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Bank of the West etc stating “your account was possibly compromised and your account has been temporary frozen to avoid fraudulent transactions. Please click on the link below to verify your information so we can unlock your account. We are sorry of any inconvenience this may cause you”.

These notices are VERY real looking because they have cut and pasted actual bank logos and wording from real banking websites. If you click on the link it requests your personal information including your PIN to “verify” your account. Your account is then quickly drained of all your money and you won’t realize it until you start getting overdraft notices or bounced checks.

NEVER NEVER NEVER give anyone personal information such as social security numbers, bank account information and PINS, or other personal information unless you know who you are talking to. Request a call back number and call it, call your bank to verify suspicious e-mails. Most sites are secure and trusted so beware of scams or e-mails using the same realistic looking logos asking for your personal information.

All banks and most web-sites have a security department. If you have any doubts, call your bank or send an e-mail to the security department of your bank to see if the e-mail is actually from them. Sites such as PayPal and most banks request that you forward the entire suspicious e-mail to them and they will let you know if it was a scam.

Certain things should raise red flags such as someone offering to pay an unusually large amount of money to ship an item overnight, saying they are out of the Country and asking to ship to a different address, e-mails stating the money will be held until the item is shipped, people selling electronics cheap in a parking lot, promises of large sums of money if you send good faith money, all red flags pointing to a scam.

These scams have been around a long time so none of this is new information for crooks. We are just trying to make innocent people AWARE of these scams and help them avoid becoming a victim of crime.

And follow the old rule; “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true”…… Or else you might end up with a box of rocks instead of a TV…….



  1. I’ve been looking for new model used car. I found one which I though was in my area,Cincinnati,looked good and at a very reasonable price. Upon further contact the seller was “moving” to Denver,but would ship the car. He would open an ebay sales to transfer the money and complete the deal. I would have three days to return the car if I wasn’t satisfied.

    My alarm bells started going off. If it were such a good car at a good price why not sell it locally instead of all the hassle of shipping. I started doing some checking and I guess this is a common scam and the ebay accounts set up are phony ones. So, rule of thumb, if it is a car bargain, but has to be shipped, forgetaboutit.


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