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Beware of Scams

The majority of responses to classified ads are genuine.
However, we do not censor who views your online classified, be aware of the potential for online scams and for fraudulent replies.

Nantucket.net IS NOT INVOLVED in any transaction, does not handle payments, does not guarantee transactions, does not provide escrow services, and does not offer “buyer protection” or “seller certification.”

Most of the fraudulent replies are made via email. Classified ad scams frequently involve one or more of the following:

  • an inquiry from someone far away, often in another country
  • Western Union, Money Gram, cashier’s check, money order, or a “guarantee”
  • inability or refusal to meet face-to-face before finalizing the transaction

NOTE: it is possible to fake cashier’s checks and postal money orders, and counterfeits can be difficult to distinguish from real ones. Here are some tips & resources:

Nantucket.net is serious about helping customers avoid online scams
If you post a classified ad, you may receive fraudulent responses.  While receipt of these responses is unavoidable, you can protect yourself by following a few simple, common-sense rules:

  • DEAL LOCALLY with customers you meet in person
  • DEAL only with cash
  • NEVER agree to sell an item for more than the purchase price and refund the overpayment to the seller
  • NEVER agree to purchase an item with partial payment
  • NEVER agree to cash a check for a stranger
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS – most such requests are fraudulent
  • NEVER send money, even if you receive a check. FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered up to 4 weeks later.
  • NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number)
  • DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN DEALS INVOLVING A THIRD PARTY. And if you are asked to use an escrow service, research the service completely to make sure it is legitimate before you participate.

If you suspect that a classified ad posted on Nantucket.net Classifieds is a scam,  send an email to help@nantucket.net and make sure you include in your email the full text of the classified ad you are reporting, the contact information of the suspected scammer, and all evidence that makes you believe the ad is a scam.  Nantucket.net will promptly remove any ads deemed fraudulent. IF YOU HAVE LOST MONEY OR MERCHANDISE, YOU SHOULD CALL THE POLICE. Nantucket.net cannot report a crime on your behalf — our action is limited to removing the fraudulent ad.

A few examples of online classified ad scams:

Mystery Shopper Scam
This scam involves phony advertisements for employment as a secret shopper, mystery shopper, or investigative shopper. The scam might work this way: People respond to an ad looking for a mystery shopper or a secret shopper. When they contact the company about the position, they are told they can earn money by purchasing items at different stores or dining at different restaurants. The company then sends an employment packet. The packet includes business evaluation forms, a training assignment, and a cashier’s check, often ranging between $2,000 and $4,000. The training assignment is to cash the check, pose as a customer, and wire the money to an address in Canada, UK or another state. The scam is that the check is fake. The check bounces after the person wires the money, leaving the person liable for the fake check. People who apply for the secret shopper or mystery shopper jobs are told by the company that they have only 48 hours to complete the assignment or they will lose the job. You need to know that a legitimate company will never send you a cashier’s check out of the blue or require you to send money to someone you have never met. The scam artists use realistic looking documents, the ‘secret’ nature of the job, and the 48-hour deadline to pressure consumers into cashing the check and wiring the money quickly before the bank or the consumer can determine it was a fake check. By then, it’s too late.

There are legitimate mystery shopper jobs. Legitimate secret shopper companies generally do not advertise for jobs through help wanted or classified ads. It is always a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau and investigate any business offering this sort of employment.

Nigerian (or 419) Scam
The classic form of advance fee fraud is the Nigerian Letter or 419 fraud, named after the section of the Nigerian penal code that it violates. Originally sent by mail, and later by fax, the Nigerian Letter is now sent almost exclusively by e-mail. A typical letter includes a header that says something like “Confidential Business Proposal” and claims to come from a person needing to transfer large sums of money out of the country. As the Nigerian letter has become well known to potential targets, the gangs operating the scams have developed other variations. The targets are often told that they are the beneficiaries of an inheritance or are invited to impersonate the beneficiary of an unclaimed estate. The target may be told that a wealthy individual is being held hostage and will reward those who help to transfer the ransom money. Another common related scam is a fake lottery in which the targets are told that they have ‘won’ a large prize but must pay an ‘administrative fee’ before they can receive it. After the ‘administrative fee’ is paid, the scammer vanishes.

I am interested in your item scam
This is a very slippery scam. The email will sound like a genuine reply to your ad. The tip-off is that the scammer will never actually refer to the item for sale by name. It will always be referred to as the ‘item’ or other term. Another red flag to watch for, this scam seems to be originating in Europe where an advertisement is referred to as an ‘advert’. If you reply to this ad you will probably be asked to cash a cashiers check plus shipping. It will ask you to forward the ‘shipping’ to a shipping agent.

Dog for Sale Scam
This scam is hard to recognize as actually being a scam at first. In this scam, the scammer posts an online classified ad offering a rare or expensive dog for sale.  The classified ad itself seems pretty normal, and there is nothing overtly suspicious about the way that it is written. But when you contact the seller, he will indicate that he would like you to send them a “shipping fee” or sometimes an “adoption fee” before they will sell the dog to you. Truth is there is no dog at all, and once the “seller” receives your deposit, he will disappear and be untraceable. While the scam is relatively simple, it sometimes works because the buyer is made to feel guilty about not paying “a small fee to ensure the animals health and safety.” Plus, who thinks that a nice dog breeder is going to try and scam them?

Note that not all “pets for sale” ads on this site or elsewhere on the Internet are scams. Just keep in mind that some may be, and exercise caution. If they want you to send money in advance, this should set off alarm bells

Banking Agent (or other business) Scam
In this scam, the scammer posts an online classified ad which looks something like this:
“Growing international company is looking for a financial/art/sales agent in (your) area.”

When you contact the author of this ad, he will inform you that he is part of a new overseas company which is just starting to break into the North American market. Because of “international banking regulations,” he cannot accept payments from new North American customers. So he are looking for someone who will act as a “Banking Agent”, and who will cash customers checks for them. If you deposit these checks into your own account, and then send them the majority of the funds, the company will give you a generous commission.

This scammer is getting you to deposit counterfeit checks in your own account, keeping some of the cash, and then sending the bulk of the funds off to him. You will probably be able to do this a few times before the bank catches up with you (it can take weeks for some banks to identify fraudulent checks). At that point, you are the one left holding the bag, and the person who sent the checks to you will have disappeared

Accidental Overpayment Scam
This scam is like the scam described above, with a slight twist. The scammer will contact you about your ad, indicating that he wants to purchase your item. When their check arrives in the mail, you notice that the amount on the check is much more than your purchase price.

Once you receive this check, being the nice person that you are, you will email the person telling him of his error. When the scammer responds to your email, he will probably suggest that you just deposit the check and send him back the overpaid amount.  He may even offer you additional money for your honest response.  Just like with the Banking Agent scam, after depositing the check and sending the overpayment to the scammer, you will find out that it was counterfeit and you will be liable to the bank for the full amount of the check.