Scam Checks to Buys Things on Craigslist

[Posted 11/26/19] One of the most common ways for cybercriminals to steal someone’s money is to send someone a fake check, asking them to deposit the check, keeping a portion of it and then “using some of the deposited funds” to send money back to the scammer in disguise.  Of course the checks bounce in several days, sometimes taking as long as 5-7 business days. After which the victim is on the hook for depositing a fraudulent check AND sending their very real money to the criminals in an untraceable form. This scam is simply called the “advance check” scam and there are many ways criminals try to convince people to deposit fake checks and wire them real money from their bank accounts.  People who post things for sale on Craigslist are often targeted this way. 

In mid-November, 2019 we were contacted by a woman who was targeted in exactly this way.  We’ll call her “Allie.” Here is her story….

Allie had posted a sofa for sale on Craigslist on November 10 and the next day she received an email from someone named Elizabeth Johnson using the email address to ask if it was still available.  It was. Here is Ms. Johnson’s response.  Can you spot any red flags that should make Allie suspicious?

From: Elizabeth Johnson <>
Date: Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 1:57 PM
Subject: Re: Restoration hardware couch available

Thanks for the prompt response to my email. I am so happy that the item is still available, I am very serious in buying from you, I would have come down to your location but I always have a busy hours at work, Please let me know if a Cashier Check/ Certified Check is okay, My pick up will be after you have your money cleared up. The check will be mail out to you today via UPS Service and it will deliver to you within 48hrs, I will make arrangement for the pick up as soon as the check clears. Hope I can trust you with the check payment? I  will make arrangement for pick-up . So get back to me with below details asap.

Zip Code:
Cell Number:
Last Asking price..

I will make arrangements for pick up as soon as you have your money, I will add an additional $50 for holding it for me Please consider it sold.

Thank you , hope to read back from you soon   


On Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 12:25 PM, Allie responded with:

    >>> Hello,
    >>> Great! We have someone to look at it Thursday if it isn’t claimed before
    >>> then. If you’d look at after work, just let me know.  We can hold it until
    >>> next weekend to pick up once paid as an option.
    >>> Best,
    >>> Allie


Here are the first warning signs that should make every seller immediately suspicious…

  1. The person commits to buying the item without seeing it.
  2. There is no phone conversation, no public meeting to look at the item for sale and no Skype/Facetime call.  All contact is email (or text) only.
  3. The “buyer” says she will send a certified check via UPS (not a personal letter) and asks that she hopes she can trust the seller with it.
  4. The “buyer” says she will pay MORE THAN the asking price.  There is no attempt to haggle a better price.


In addition to these red flags, there is a warning sign that sellers should be aware of…. Clearly, the buyer’s first language is not English.  We do not mean to disparage people for whom English is a second language. However, our experience has taught us that MOST cybercriminals are not native English speakers.

Now that Allie knew she had a buyer, she tried to arrange a pick up date and confirm the price she had posted on Craigslist:

On Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 4:37 PM, Allie writes:
    >> Hi,
    >> That would be okay if it can be picked up this weekend if possible.  Our
    >> new couch is being delivered early next week.  The check must be cleared by
    >> Thursday afternoon in time to cancel the other person scheduled to visit.
    >> What is your phone #?
    >> My address is: [REDACTED]
    >> Asking $450
    >> Thanks so much!
    >> Allie


To which, on 11/11/19, Elizabeth Johnson <> wrote:

    > Thanks for your information, I will get back to you with the tracking
    > number of the check as  soon as the check mailed out to your location, i
    > will also advice that you withdraw the item from Craigslist in order to
    > prevent from other buyers okay hope to read back from you today.


Allie responded that she had other people interested in the sofa but that she would hold them off since Elizabeth had promised to send a check to purchase the item.  Two days later, Elizabeth Johnson sent this next email. Can you spot any more red flags?


From: Elizabeth Johnson <>
Date: Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 9:15 PM


    How are you?, I am sorry for the late receive of the payment this was due to my daughter health (Asthma) We spent last 2 days at the hospital to make sure she is alright The payment is already mailed out to your address & it will deliver to you in the morning but there’s a little add up on the check, I instructed my Financial to mail out your check and Mover payment separate but She stated that she didn’t clearly understand my instruction,the payment has been sent Via UPS Tracking Number: J4612085759 and will delivered to you today or tomorrow hope i can also trust you with the mover funds? & you will keep to your words. Please i really need your total understanding in order to make pick up arrangement successful.  Please i want you to go ahead as soon as you receive the check & have it deposit at your bank immediately , it should clear in 24hrs I have some other 5 items needed in our New Home. So the rest money meant for the pick up of all the items which my mover is going to pick up for me around your location include yours. I am Putting all my trust and faith in you, both of which are becoming less prominent these days, Please do not let down I am very sorry about the mistake and delay once again Pls Acknowledge my message soon as you get this message and I pray that God will also send you an Angel where you least expect; I believe we will be rewarded for the good we do for others; especially strangers. Please keep me posted; Many thanks

Thank you and God bless you, Hope to read back from you soon


Additional red flags that should have made Allie doubt that the buyer is real:

  1. The “buyer” has added additional money onto the check so that Allie can pay the movers to pick up the sofa.  THIS IS THE ACTUAL FRAUD! EVERYTHING ELSE WAS MEANT TO PREPARE ALLIE FOR THIS ADDITIONAL MONEY PAYMENT!
  2. The “buyer” is pressuring the seller to deposit the check immediately and then tells the seller that the check will clear in 24 hours.  THIS IS NEVER TRUE! Checks can take up to 7 business days to clear, depending on the banks, checks, and locations.
  3. The “buyer” again talks about putting faith and trust in the seller.  “She” remarks that rewards come to those who do good things, especially for strangers.  The “buyer” tries to appeal to the seller’s good side IN ORDER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HER!


During the next few days, Allie and Elizabeth email back and forth about the arrival of the check: 

On Nov 15, 2019, at 3:48 PM, Elizabeth Johnson <> wrote:

I received a confirmation from UPS service that the check has been delivered to your address . Let me know once the check is deposited/Cashed at your bank, so that i can contact my mover asap.  Hope to read back from you soon


It turns out that the check was for $1750!  Allie was supposed to wire $1300 to the movers.  Allie was told the amount was so high because the movers were making many stops along the way!

On Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 9:36 PM, Allie [EMAIL REDACTED] wrote:

    Hi! Can you please confirm when you are having the movers come? I’ll let you know as soon as the check is cleared, should be Tuesday or Wednesday.  Would Saturday be an option? 

    Thanks so much!


The criminal, posing as Elizabeth Johnson, has convinced Allie to deposit the check but must now convince her to send funds from that check to the “Movers” who will come get the sofa.  Of course, there are no Movers. This is just the method used to get Allie to wire untraceable funds to the criminal or his colleagues.


From: Elizabeth Johnson <>
Date: Tue, Nov 19, 2019 at 7:37 PM

Thanks for your honesty, The Mover is ready to come for the pick up but what is holding them is the funds but i have already let the manager know that the funds will be wire to them via Walmart to Walmart today once you have the payment with you now just get it deposited and deduct your actual amount plus extra $50 for the running around you are having and get the remaining fund send Via MONEY GRAM at Walmart  to the Mover information below for them to come for the pick up in your location since their freight and handling fee is been included with your money.. here is their information to get the funds send Via Money-gram

information to wire the rest money to via MONEY GRAM Using Money in a Minutes Transfer service  MONEY GRAM….

Address : 6741 S Sprinkle Rd, Portage, MI 49002
City:   Portage
State:    MI
ZIP:      49002

Kindly get back to me with the Money-gram Transfer details after you might have send the money, such as;

Digit Ref #
Sender Name and Address as written on the receipt
Exact Amount that you send after you deduct the transfer charges
NB: Let me know if the address you gave to me is the same address for the pickup location?

Thanks, as i wait to read from you soon  



It is important to note that Allie is located in a state on the East Coast, nowhere near Michigan where the Movers are located!

Allie became very suspicious after being pressured to wire money the next day to a mover in a different state.  That’s when she reached out to us at The Daily Scam to ask what we thought. And of course we said this was a scam for all the reasons listed above as red flags.  In addition, that address for the Mover, Thompson Martin Dembele in Michigan where Allie was supposed to wire the funds is completely bogus. A Google search shows that it is the address for a self-storage rental facility, rather than any moving company associated with the name given to Allie.