Why does someone from Belgium want to buy my TV?

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I have started cleaning out my attic and basement and garage and selling things online through Craigslist, eBay local, and OfferUp. Recently, I’ve gotten a ton of contacts from people overseas who want to buy my things. This seems a bit odd. I’m tempted to reply, just because I want to sell my stuff, but it just seems fishy to me. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Ohhh, boy. Do I have thoughts!

Congrats…you are being targeted for what is commonly called an “over-payment scam.”

Several years ago, I was in a similar situation to you. My parents were getting ready to move, and were looking to sell a lot of junk.

Being the wonderful web-savvy daughter that I am, I offered to post some of their items on Craigslist, in hopes that they could sell them without having to go through the whole garage-sale deal.

I started getting emails from Belgium, Africa, and other random countries trying to get me to sell them my parent’s large screen TV. Luckily, 
I’m not an idiot.

The first email from a guy in Belgium. He was going to send funds in the form of a cashier’s check in US dollars. He told me that it would be a local pickup. I emailed him back and forth for a few days trying to figure out how this could be a scam…after all, why would someone want to buy a 200lb TV overseas? I didn’t think that Belgium was an impoverished nation…nor did I believe that they were so short on TVs that they had to buy one from Detroit.

Then I got another email from Africa. This guy told me that he wanted to buy my TV as a graduation gift for his son, and could I calculate the shipping costs via UPS? 
I laughed.

So I did some research, and found that this was a fairly common routine. Someone from overseas would approach a seller with a large-ticket item (The TV was going for over $1500) and offer to buy with a cashier’s check, or even a wire from Western Union…what happens is that they send MORE money than was actually asked for. For example, since the TV was $1500, they’d send $2000. When the seller notifies the buyer of the error, the buyer asks the seller to wire them the difference.

Of course, the cashier’s check was fake, and the seller would be out a large ticket item, as well as a fair chunk of change.

I thought this was funny. 
Over the years, as I re-tell this story, people usually ask, “But how did you know it was a scam?” and it’s really quite simple: It didn’t make sense.  Sometimes that simple phrase can save you from a ton of hurt.

Luckily, with all the local options available to you, (Craigslist, OfferUp, eBay local, Facebook buy and sell groups in your neighborhood, etc) you don’t have to even think about working with someone outside your local area for big-ticket items. Or, feel free to have one of those good old-fashioned garage sales!


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