Scammed out of three grand

December 28, 2007 3:57:03 AM PST
It is a cautionary tale for people who do business online, and a reminder about how banks handle checks.

"I go down to ATM at my bank and find my account frozen, minus three thousand dollars," said Anne Knorr, explaining what happened on Christmas Eve.

Her story actually began weeks earlier when her fiancee went to the internet site Craigslist to sell speaker units.

A doctor in California claimed he would pay almost six hundred dollars to have them shipped. He sent a check from a Tulsa company for more than three thousand dollars, saying just wire him what's left over.

Now all this should have set off alarm bells. Craigslist warns these are the hallmarks of a scam, but Knorr figured she will cash the big check, and if the bank clears it, then the check must be legit.

"I waited for it to clear, waited four days," she said.

After several days, Wachovia put the full amount in her account, so she assumed the check was good.

She then wired the overage to California. Three days later the roof falls in. The check is counterfeit. There is no doctor and Wachovia demands Ann pay $2946.71.

"There is no way I can pay that back," she said.

"Unfortunately bank is taking advantage of this consumer. The bank made its statement clear, saying money was available. There was no way for the consumer to know anything other than the bank said funds were there," said consumer advocate Lance Haver.

Wachovia disagrees, saying under federal law a scammed depositor can be held responsible "even if the check hold on the item has expired and your bank has made the funds available to you."

It is a cautionary tale for all of us. Beware of oversized checks from strangers who want you to wire them funds, and be aware of how your bank handles and clears checks.