12 On Your Side: Online auto sale scam targets local man

By: Elizabeth Owens Email
By: Elizabeth Owens Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. -- Selling some of your stuff online is an easy way to make some quick cash, but it's also an easy way for scammers to steal your money.

Nobody knows that better than Michael Clark.

"Felt like I lost everything," he said.

Clark says he tried to sell his F-150 on mautofied.com, which is an online buy, sell or trade vehicle website.

"A couple of people offered me on it then changed their minds and one person texted me and said, 'I will offer you cash,'" he said.

Clark was ecstatic someone was willing to pay $4,000 for his truck even though he thought it was strange the buyer wanted the truck shipped.

"At first it sounded too good to be true, but of course, I needed the money," Clark said.

He said the buyer sent him a check for $4,000 plus an extra $2,000 to cover shipping. He made a deposit at Bank of America and 10 days later the check cleared. The day it cleared the bank, Clark says the buyer texted him saying he had a family emergency and needed the $6,000 back.

"His father was in the hospital and he wanted me to send the money back," Clark said.

Clark admitted he was annoyed but sent a refund through a money gram. He never thought he was being scammed since the check already cleared his account.

"Literally the next day the check bounced," Clark said.

Suddenly, he found himself $6,000 in the hole.

"I went to the bank and said, 'I've talked to you beforehand, can you do anything to help me can you go after this guy?' They said, 'There is really not much we can do, you just need to give us your money,'" he said.

Clark also filed a report with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. However, deputies told him there wasn't much they could do either since they believe he was a victim of an overseas scam.

Bank of America would not comment on Clark's situation because it's a personal account.

Experts with the Federal Trade Commission warn even though a check appears cleared on account, it could just be your bank fronting the money.

The FTC says the best way to protect yourself is to only accept cash or a cashier's check, never wire money to a stranger and to always be leery of anyone who offers you more than your asking price on an item your selling.

Clark says Bank of America is now drafting money from his direct deposit to cover the negative balance in his account.

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