Beware!

Well that was dissappointing to say the least. Let me start from the beginning:

Last Sunday I got an email that originated from my Etsy.com account regarding my pencil chair. I made this chair in College out of 1,000+ Ticonderoga #2s attached to a aluminum and steel frame. Pretty cool stuff if I may say so myself. The thought of selling the chair is mixed: I would love the money, but it would be sad to lose it.

Anyway, this is what the letter said:

"I am interested in the immediate purchase of your item and will be make payment via cashier check/money order, my private shipping company will handle the shipping, but before payment will be made i need to be sure of who i am dealing with if you are going to be honest and sincere throughout the transaction. A certified cashiers check is cash-able the same day,there is going to be an excess fund on the check ,the excess fund is meant for the private shipping company who will come to your place for pick up of the item, so shipping is not a problem,will you be able to transfer the excess fund to the shipping company the same day you receive the check?. check would be sent to you so when you get payment you can easily cash it at any cashing point near you or deposit in your bank. You'll be sending excess fund to my shipper , which would be meant for shipping arrangement.if you agree, signify your interest by forwarding to me your Final Asking Price, Full Name & Contact Address and Tel # also i will want you to email to my husband private email address ideranimota@rocketmail.com make sure you reply back to my husband email,So plz kindly email me to my email address I await your response soonest. Best and kind regards, idera nimota"

Okay, so there are several red flags there, but if you read that through the filter of "Yay, someone likes my art!" it becomes significantly more believable. So I responded:

"That sounds perfectly fine. When the check gets here, I will cash the check, pay the shipper and send the chair the same day. My asking price is $600 (not including the additional cost for shipping).

[I included Nick's work address because I didn't feel comfortable giving out my home address.]

This address is my husband's work address. He would be happy to meet with your shipper there Monday-Friday.

Thank you for you interest!"

And the response from the husband's email address:

"Goodmorning  Seller, Thanks so much for the reply.The deal is done because am 100% interested in the item and am ok with the condition and the price, In fact my wife was also happy to read your previous 'message.  I wanna alert you that you dont need to bother yourself for shipping, I  have contact a shipping company in the state today, concerning the shipment so they can come for the pickup. I 'll include the cost for the shipment on the Money Order and the added funds goes to the shipping company agent. Once you receive the payment You take your money out of it and make arrangement to get the remainder funds wired to the shipping company agent via Western Union Money Transfer only before they can come for pickup. Is that alright?

I want you to delete the ads from the site now, just because i dont want you to sell it to another person or get carried away with another offers because the deal is definately done, just because i don't wanna lose it. Once you receive the payment you will kindly help me out with the shipment in which you will send the excess fund to the shipping agent. You will have to wire the shipment funds to the shippers agent through Western Union Money Transfer, and do you have any nearest western union outlet nearby to get that done? When that's done they can comor the pickup at your destination with immediate effort. The shipping company will contact you once you get the Payment for you to send them the funds. email me your full name and address with phone number

I will be mailing out the payment to you tomorow, because i need the item delivered to my new apartment. and i still have some items at the old apartment, and the same shippers will be responsible for the pickup. It will be done after they schedule the pickup at your location, they will branch my old apt to pickup my Couch. I ill be sending your pickup address to the shipping company agent,and i will also gave them my own shipping address as well. I await for your prompt reply .

Thank"

So, still thinking all was well, I responded:

"Great. I will pay the shipping company via Western Union Money Transfer. I live nearby a Western Union, so this shouldn't be any trouble.

The ad for the Pencil Chair has been deleted from my site. You don't need to worry about me selling it to anyone. I'm glad you and your wife are excited to have this piece.

Please mail the payment to my husband's work:

[Included address again]

This address will also be the pick-up address for the shipping company, for your information.

I hope your move goes well, and thank you again for your business."

He responded on July 6th saying that he was mailing the payment out "asap". We still haven't gotten the check but I am confident that this would not turn out well. I had dinner with my parents last night and joyously told them about how I was selling my chair. My dad, being the "Information Security Officer" that he is (among other things) told me I should be careful and forwarded me to a story on Snopes.com (http://www.snopes.com/crime/fraud/cashier.asp). I was under the impression that cashier's checks were a sure thing. Nick and I had bought his brother's Mustang with a cashier's check. In my mind cashier's checks=money. Not according to Snopes. After reading through their information, it sounded just like my story:

1. Person is selling something on the internet.

2. Person is contacted via email by someone who hails from Africa, usually Nigeria. (Idera Namota is an African name and the time stamp on the emails makes me think there was a significant time difference. Also, the buyer had very poor grammar suggesting english was not their first language.)

3. Buyer agrees to the asked for price without haggling and looks for immediate insurance that the item will not be sold to anyone but him. (He asked me to take down my posting; I did.)

4. He offers to have someone pick up and ship the item  once the sale is complete, making it clear that he alone will bear all charges associated with shipping. (He only wanted to use his private shipper and was not interested in the shipping and payment options I posted on my Etsy site.)

5. When it comes to payment the buyer offers a cashiers check in excess of the asking amount. The excess funds are to be directed (usually wired) to a third party. (In my case, that third party is the shipper.)

6. The cashier's check arrives and the seller deposits in his/her account. Satisfied that the check was good once the banks put the money into his/her account, the seller wires the excess funds to the specified third party.

7. No one comes to pick up the item.

8. Two weeks later, the seller is informed by his/her bank that the check was a forgery and the funds are removed from their account leaving him/her out the amount that was wired to the third party.

Thankfully I have skeptical people who love me and want to protect me from bad guys who want to take advantage of my honesty and naivete. So #6-8 didn't happen to me...yet. I look forward to receiving the check (I don't think I am going to deposit it, even if I wait a while...I don't want to get hit with a bounced check fee), and the subsequent emails from our good friend Idera Namota.

I'm dissappointed. I want people to like my art for what it is, not for what they can get from me. So much for finishing the remodel and becoming a "profitable"artist.

(As a side note, the profile that was set up on Etsy.com that the first letter originated from has now been closed down.)