Couple targeted in online scam works to raise red flag

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - An Indianapolis couple believes they were nearly the victims of a scam artist.

It started with a simple post on Craigslist and ended with a call to the police department.

Earlier this year, Carole Sobotka and her husband attempted to sell a couch. After striking out on Facebook, they turned to Craigslist. The sale price was $50.

At first, they didn't receive any interest, but then one potential buyer made them an unusual offer.

"He said he wanted to send us a cashier’s check. Then he wanted us to cash it, take our fee, and then give the rest to the movers," recalls Sobotka.

They thought the proposition was odd, so they declined. He then began asking about bank account information.

The couple ended communication and blocked his number. They thought that was the end, but received a message a week later from the same person on a different number.

"He messaged us that he mailed us the cashiers check, so we went out to check the mail and sure enough there is an envelope with a check in it."

The cashier's check looked legitimate. It even had what appeared to be a routing number. It was filled out in the amount of $1,950.

"I convinced my husband to call the police dept to report it," says Carole. "We’re probably not the only people this guy has tried to get money out of before."

The police department recommended they report the incident to the Attorney General.

"We see fraud attempts using an internet-based system, sometimes it’s in the mail and sometimes it’s by telephone," said Betsy DeNardi.

DeNardi is the director and chief council for the consumer protection division of the Attorney General's office.

She says the cashier's check scam is nothing new. If a seller cashes the check it can be costly. It may take banks days to realize the check is not linked to an account.

"You’ve sent your own funds," says DeNardi. "You didn’t send money that was actually associated with that cashier’s check."

The Attorney General's office also recommended they file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and the Postal Inspector.

"We’ll issue alerts if we see an uptick in a specific type of scam that’s occurring to warn consumers about that," says DeNardi.

As for catching the scam artist, Carole knows the chances are slim.

"I don’t hold out a lot of hope that it will see a resolution," she said. "But at least I know I did my part and what I needed to do on my end."

The couple tackled a mountain of paperwork, but they hope the effort is worth it to someone else doesn't lose their money.

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