Am I being scammed here? What's the safest way to complete this transaction?

Someone was looking for a wireless card on craigslist and I happen to have one sitting around. I sent the seller an e-mail, then got this back:

I’ve always been told to be wary of using money orders for online stuff. Furthermore, the guy is e-mailing me from a yahoo address that doesn’t match his name. But maybe I’m being a little paranoid here? After all, he’s suggesting that I cash the MO first. Can I be scammed with this arrangement?

The other thing, of course, is that I would feel weird sending the card… what if something happens in transit?

What do those of you who do buying/selling online do to ensure safety? I think PayPal is probably a good way to go, personally, but any advice Dopers can lend would be very helpful!

There has been a rash of counterfeit postal money orders. However, US postal money orders can be cashed at US Post Offices. I would think if you walk out with cash in hand, you’d be okay. Inquire at a Post Office to see how it’s done and if there’s any possible risk to you.

I dunno; it seems strange that he’d use a money order; if he’s mailing something, cash seems easier to me. But I agree with Gary T- don’t send the card until you have cash in hand, whether from the money order or straight from the envelope. I’m inclined to think that this guy feels he has nothing to lose in this transaction, which is strange in itself- anyone who actually operates the way he claims to is going to get scammed in the end.

Gary T, your link mentions someone who eventually had the money from the bogus money orders debited from his account. Hippy Hollow, I’d just take the money order into a bank or post office and ask them to tell you if it’s legit, then get it cashed, not deposited.

I didn’t suggest a bank because I assumed he couldn’t get it cashed at a bank where he didn’t have an account, and a fake one would eventually be charged to his account at his own bank. I wouldn’t trust that bank personnel could absolutely assure him it was legit.

My thought was that Post Office personnel could make a definitive ruling about the money order, and possibly initiate an investigation of the sender if it’s bogus. I’m guessing that if the P.O. cashes it, they wouldn’t ever seek recourse from the person presenting it - but I’d make certain of that before proceeding.

Before I signed up with PayPal, that was exactly how I paid for things I’d bought on eBay. I don’t understand where a problem could develop from what the buyer is suggesting – you get the money, THEN you send the card. No biggie.

What Beadalin said. I don’t have a PayPal account and everything I have ever purchased on eBay has been paid for with a money order. I have no idea how someone could be scammed with one. If you cash it you have the money and mail the item. Where is the problem in that?

The bank **can’t ** give such assurance until the item has been cleared at the originating bank.

Whatever you do, make sure you INSURE THE SHIPMENT. The only way this guy could scam you is to claim you never sent it or something similar. Make sure you have a tracking number and insurance so you aren’t liable.


The problem is if you cash it against your account. Five days later the bank figures out the originating source is fraudulent and then they reclaim the money from your account.

I understand that, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to ship an item to me until the payment has cleared anyway. And if I were the seller that is what I would do.

So the only way to be scammed in this situation would be to ship before you can confirm that the payment is valid. I don’t think that is the common way to things are don on eBay. Or am I missing something here? The buyer explicitly says not to mail the item until the money order has been cashed. Maybe I’m being thick, but to me it seems like a totally legit deal.

Couple of things;

Define ‘cleared’,

how long 'till it’s safe to assume the transaction is official, 4 days, 8, 17?

I doubt the OP has anything to worry about. There are counterfeit and stolen U.S,P.S. Money Orders out there, but why would someone go to the trouble for fifty bucks? I would not trust a M.O. from any other source though. Apparently Walmart has had a big problem w/ their M.O.'s being counterfeited.
Here’s a U.S.P.S. site concerning counterfeit M.O.'s.

As Uncommon Sense suggests, this is easier said than done. Now, if you cash it at the Post Office and they don’t take your name, I’d say you’re safe. But if you cash it at your bank, how do you know when you’re in the clear? With some counterfeit checks (including cashier’s checks), it takes months for things to get to the point where the bank knows they’re phony. And correspondingly, it’s months after you’ve submitted the check that you get dinged for the money. While I doubt it would take that long for a US Postal money order to be identified as no good, I’ll bet your bank cannot tell you with certainty how long it will be. Whether it takes days, weeks, or months, you’re on the hook indefinitely. And - this is the main point - no one at your bank can authoritively tell you how long it will be. It’s not uncommon for a financial instrument to appear to have been paid, only for it to come to light much later that it wasn’t.

So the problem is, how do you confirm that it’s valid?

Look, all the OP has to do is insist on a USPS money order, cash it at the post office, and ship the item via insured mail.

No muss, no fuss, no way to get scammed. As pointed out above, a large percentage of ebay transactions are done exactly this way.

A scammer would NOT suggest using a money order, then send the money prior to the seller shipping the item.

Update: so I replied to the potential buyer, saying that PayPal might work better… but not demanding it or anything.

His response:

I still feel like saying, “Well, if time is no issue, why not just wait until you’re in town again and we can do it face-to-face?” (Buyer lives in Providence.)

I think the likelihood that this is shady is reduced, somewhat. It’s a fairly inexpensive item, the amount is small. Huh…

Yeah, I think you’re being a tad bit too cautious. Life is full of risk, is it going to change your life if you get scammed for fifty bucks? I’ve had very little experience w/ Paypal, but, of the two, I think the U.S.P.S. Money Order might even be safer.

Just an idle question: He’ll pay you via money order or he’ll pay you through paypal. He’s apparently willing to pay $3 for shipping.

What is it that you think can possibly go wrong? What’s triggered an outbreak of paranoia on your part?

Maybe the guy simply wants the card and is willing to pay for it in some way that doesn’t involve mailing cash?

Mailing cash is something I’d never agree to do. With a money order or paypal, the buyer has a record, some proof, that he paid. Mailing cash leaves the buyer with no protection at all.

Go ahead and try living on the edge…Do The Deal!

Ideally, face-to-face cash transaction is the way to avoid being scammed.

The things scammers will go after are things that can be sold quickly and easily, like an iPod or a laptop computer. Things that EVERYBODY would want. Your wireless card does not seem to be something that can be sold easily, it is kind of specialized. Remember, they don’t get anything out of sending you a Postal Mail Order, they get it by re-selling your merchandise.

Be suspicious of Overseas buyers.

Cheers and good luck.

I was scammed out of a couple of Paypal payments when I was selling on eBay – the buyer just declared the transaction fraudulent, and Paypal screwed me over. So I’d agree with the USPS money order or cash-in-hand route if you want to avoid getting screwed.