It sounded too good to be true. And it was.
In the past three weeks, four Greencastle residents with items for sale on the Internet were scammed by con artists sending bogus orders to purchase.
Greencastle Police Det. Randy Seipel said each of the victims had items, including a motorcycle, posted for sale on several Internet classified sites, including HoosierTopics.com.
In each case, the victim received either an e-mail inquiry, or an actual money order, from a person claiming to be interested in purchasing the item the victim had for sale.
At least one of the victims received a money order made out well in excess of the price of the item they were claiming to purchase, Seipel explained. The victim was instructed to cash the money order and send the excess money back to the perpetrator, via Western Union.
The victim was told the extra money was to cover the cost of shipping the item.
"It's something that's been going on in every state, in every community," Seipel said.
In this case, Seipel believes the perpetrators were not from Indiana, which makes them difficult to track.
Fortunately for all four of the victims from the Greencastle area, personnel at the bank were aware of the scam and declined to cash the checks.
"Fortunately no one locally has been able to cash them, so no one's been out any money," Seipel said.
Agencies, including Greencastle, rely on the Indiana Attorney General's office to track down these types of crimes.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, Staci Schneider, told the BannerGraphic that these types of crimes are difficult to track down and often leading across state and international borders.
"It is quite challenging," she said. "You start with the information you have and go from there."
She said she was pleased to here that the victims in Greencastle didn't lose any money and that bank personnel were aware of the scams.
"It's nice to know people are alert and have caught it before it became a problem for them," Schneider said.
It's difficult to understand how people continue to be duped by these types of schemes, but Schneider says it continues to happen.
"There's a trusting nature in people," she said. "I think that a lot of times it's just our trusting nature and our willingness to trust each other, which isn't bad. Unfortunately it can hurt your pocket book."
The attorney general's office suggests the following tips for guarding against these types of scams:
* Often, these scam artists pose as potential buyers from a foreign country.
* They may also pretend to be a business owner needing financial agents in the U.S. and in exchange they promise a commission.
* No matter how convincing the story, it is highly unlikely that you will benefit from one of these overpayment scams.
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a check overpayment scam is asked to contact the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-382-5516.
Using the Internet, they can also file a complaint a www.econsumer.gov
Suspicious items that come through the mail can also be given to the postmaster.