Scammers and con-artists are getting bolder

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

PHOENIX – Con-artists are getting more aggressive in their search for victims.

Scams that were prevalent years ago are still very much active today. However, consumers are not falling for them as much as they used to.

As a result, scammers are now using intimidation and threats to persuade people into getting conned.

George Branscom and his wife are no strangers to the popular website Craigslist.

They've had a lot of luck in the past with Craigslist. In fact, they even bought their dog off the website.

But when the time came to sell their washer and dryer on Craigslist, they weren't so lucky. The problem wasn't with finding someone who wanted to buy the washer and dryer, the problem came when one buyer was so eager they sent

George a certified check for a suspicious amount.

"The check was for $2,100," George said. "And the check had a Citibank logo on the front of the check. It looked like a, just a regular certified check."

A $2,100 check for a washer and dryer that had an asking price of only $375.The woman who sent the check also sent George an email with directions on what to do with all that extra money.

"They wanted me to, after I paid myself for the washer and dryer, they wanted me to wire the rest back to the movers via Western Union," George said. "And I thought, 'there's something fishy with that.'"

George knew the check was fake and he would liable for all that money if he deposited it and wired money to the buyer.

But then the buyer turned up the heat and actually tried to intimidate George into going through with the transaction.

"She threatened that if I did not send her the money check and she did not get it by the next business day, that she would call the FBI and the police and have them come pick me up and put me in jail," George said.

It was an intimidating email that could have worked on anyone. But George knew better and stopped communicating with the con-artist altogether. Now, he hopes others will do the same thing when they try to sell something on the Internet.

"The letter, the FBI letter was very intimidating and I think there are people that would be gullible enough to respond to that intimidation and probably go ahead and cash that check and send her the money," George said.

If you are ever asked to wire money to someone you have never met, do not do it or you will become a victim of a scam.

Craigslist has these rules posted on their site:

•    DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON - follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on craigslist.

•    NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.

•    FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.

•    CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification"

•    NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)

•    AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL "GUARANTEE" YOUR TRANSACTION.

•    DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR, OR PURCHASE EXPENSIVE ITEMS SIGHT-UNSEEN - in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.

•    DO NOT SUBMIT TO CREDIT CHECKS OR BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR A JOB OR FOR HOUSING UNTIL YOU HAVE MET THE INTERVIEWER OR LANDLORD/AGENT IN PERSON.