Consumer Fraud

As people lead their lives during this era of Covid-19, fraudulent activities perpetrated against the public continues.  The simple task of selling furniture on OfferUp can cause an individual to be drawn into the web of the fraudster.   Also, today individuals’ use of applications designed to move money quickly can contribute to the fraud.

Scenario: An individual (victim) offered furniture for sale for $900 on the OfferUp app.  The victim was contacted by a buyer (scammer) and was moved quickly off OfferUp to email and text.  The first transaction was consummate on a Wednesday with receipt of a check image drawn on a third party company for $1,500 for a $300 purchase.  The excess funds were to be transferred to the furniture movers at other email addresses.  The victim waited till Thursday when she checked her bank account, and it showed the $1,500 check “cleared.”  At that time, she transferred $1,000 to the “movers” though the bank’s mobile app.  On Friday, the scammer called back and wanted the remaining furniture.  The exchange of funds was again by email with the receipt of an image of a check from the same third party company in excess of the amount of the purchase. The victim used mobile banking through her bank, which allowed the victim’s email address or mobile phone number to be tied to her bank account and the Zelle Network app.  The service partners with the financial institutions to transferred money quickly.  The mobile transfer of funds was to other third parties email addresses and two additional bank accounts. The victim sent her payment of $1,350 to the scammer, and on Saturday, when she checked her account, she received a notice that the check was fraudulent.  She attempted to stop the payment, but her bank told her to contact Zelle, which was closed for the weekend.  On Monday, the full extent of the fraud $2,350 was realized, and the victim’s bank could not recover the funds.

The Red Flags of Fraud that were missed by the victim include the following:

  1. Dealing with a stranger and trusting them with her money.
  2. Receiving a check from a third party company for payment to a business of a different name.
  3. Receiving a check for an excess amount that requires a refunded or payment to another third party (furniture movers) at a different email address and bank.
  4. Movers could only pick up the furniture on Sunday afternoon.
  5. The illogical nature of a sale for $300 and the payment of a mover $1,000 to acquire and move the furniture to the buyer, and the second payment of $1,350 for a $600 purchase.
  6. Not realizing payment on a mobile app through a service is the same as a payment or purchase on a debit card, and is not recoverable.
  7. Allowing the transaction to be consummated outside of OfferUp.
  8. Not understanding the terms and conditions on the use of the bank’s mobile app.
  9. Not understanding the terms and conditions of the Zelle Network service apps.
  10. Misuse of the Zelle Network – “intended to send money to friends, family, and others you trust.”

This fraud scheme is repeated every day by scammers and unknowing individuals (third parties) that allow their bank accounts to move money for a fee.  Victims are also at fault for not being aware of the terms and conditions and cautions expressed for applications.

The schemes occur across state lines and are generally reported to law enforcement on the local and federal level but are seldom investigated individually.  The amount of the theft does not meet Federal criteria, the criminals are not local, and the police are overwhelmed by this type of fraud.  The complaints are received and accumulated for use later in a larger case or not at all.  The FBI uses the Internet Crime Complaint Center (iC3) to receive and collect this type of fraud complaints.  To avoid being victimized, the American public needs to recognize that criminals are lurking everywhere on the internet.  They should know the limits of the applications they use, do not enter into transactions that are illogical, quick-moving, and have multiple third party transactions and banks involved.  The American public must realize that they must do their own policing and become wise consumers.

If your law firm has a client who was victimized by a fraud scheme, contact Sage Investigations, LLC, to aid your client with a financial investigation to get the information necessary to report the incident to local and federal law enforcement.  Please contact Chief Investigator Edmond Martin at 512-659-3179 for a free 20-minute consult, email:, or visit our new website at www.Sageinvestigations.Com  and review our team and their CV’s.