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Consumer warning: Beware of counterfeit checks

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Glendale man thought he was OK when he got a cashier's check but got scammed (Source: KTVK) Glendale man thought he was OK when he got a cashier's check but got scammed (Source: KTVK)
Phil Kaplan was in the middle of a scam while trying to sell household items (Source: KTVK) Phil Kaplan was in the middle of a scam while trying to sell household items (Source: KTVK)

A Glendale man tried to make a little extra money selling some used household items and found himself in the middle of a scam.

3 On Your Side has warned against this scam before and the reason why there are so many victims is because of the check itself. It looks so real, and your bank doesn't do much to tell you it's not.

Phil Kaplan is trying to update his home. 

“We re-did our den here, with a new set of tables and new leather couches, very nice stuff,” Kaplan said. “The home's 18 years old, need to do a little upgrading or modernization, or whatever you want to call it.”

Along with some new furniture, and updating the kitchen, Kaplan also purchased a new dining room set.

“We're real pleased with this; they made us a real good deal on the table, the eight chairs, and the two pieces there,” Kaplan said. 

With the new dining room set in place, Kaplan took pictures of the old one and put an ad on Craigslist to sell it, along with a hutch.
The asking price he said was $500, and it wasn't long before he had an interested buyer.

“I received a text message, the buyer says, 'I will pay you the $500 you are asking for the set but I'm out of town, and I'll send you a cashier's check,'” Kaplan said.

Kaplan agreed but says he was somewhat surprised when he received that cashier's check for more than three times the amount he was asking for his furniture

“I received a cashier's check, but not for $500 but for $1,850 so I text back to the buyer ‘why did you send me a check for $1,850?’” Kaplan said.

And the answer he got seemed believable.
“This will cover the cost of the movers because the movers have to take your furniture and send it out of town,” Kaplan said the buyer told him.

Although Kaplan was suspicious, he went to his bank and deposited the check and before taking out any of that money to "pay” the movers as the scammer requested, he wanted to make sure the check was good, so he waited to get the 'OK' from his bank. 

“I called the bank's 800 number first to verify that the check had cleared, specifically asked, 'Has this check cleared?' The answer was unequivocal 'yes,'” Kaplan said. 

And to be extra cautious, Kaplan says he went to his bank branch and once again he was told the check cleared.
However, the buyer who wanted that dining room set changed his mind and demanded his money back.
Kaplan agreed, wired the money back and then, he got bad news.

“One week later, I received notification from the bank that the check was a forgery and that they were deducting the full $1,850 from my account,” Kaplan said.

That's when Kaplan realized he was the victim of one of the longest running scams around.  But, he blames his bank, after all, the bank told him a couple of times the check had cleared, putting Kaplan at ease.

“If they said that it didn't clear, then OK, it's on me but they said that it had cleared, I think it's on them," Kaplan said.
We contacted Kaplan's bank which told us they would look into the matter. In the meantime, Kaplan says his bank needs to examine their policy to ensure this doesn't happen to someone else.

“I wouldn't have entered into this whole process if they hadn't assured me the check had cleared they had some ownership,” Kaplan said.

There's nothing wrong with trying to sell something online.  But you should try to meet the buyer in person and never accept a check, particularly if it's for more than you're asking.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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