Johnson County Metro

Iowa City police warn of potential Craigslist scams

Out-of-state buyers are using fake checks to steal money

A sticker advertising the Crime Stoppers program adorns the back of an Iowa City Police Department patrol car. (Gazette file photo)
A sticker advertising the Crime Stoppers program adorns the back of an Iowa City Police Department patrol car. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — Iowa City police have noticed a recent uptick in reports of scams associated with the online selling site Craigslist.

These particular scams involve out-of-state buyers trying to use fake, fraudulent checks to steal money, and typically occur through online classifieds or marketplace websites, according to a news release from the Iowa City Police Department.

The scammer writes a check for more than the purchase price and asks the seller to wire transfer the difference. The excuse is often to pay for something like shipping or moving costs. The fake check bounces and the seller is responsible for the amount.

The Iowa City Police Department is advising people be vigilant when using the online marketplace to buy and sell items, especially when using checks as the payment method.

To protect yourself, follow these guidelines made available by the Federal Trade Commission:

l Never wire money to strangers. If the buyer insists you wire cash, end the transaction immediately.

l Don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting or convincing the story.

l Suggest another payment option other than checks, like a reputable online payment service.

l If you accept a check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch.

l Always verify the check. Acquire the bank’s phone number yourself and call to ask if it’s valid.

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If you think you are a victim of this type of scam, contact the Iowa City Police Department at (319) 356-5275.

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