Three weeks ago, I got an inquiry from my craigslist.com ad that offers my services as a tutor for college and high school math and physics. The writer claimed he wanted me to teach his sixteen-year-old daughter some algebra and geometry during her three-week visit to the USA from Switzerland. We would do twelve one-hour sessions, total cost being $300 plus the books.
While that would be a short time for two big subjects, I could give her the highlights and help answer her questions, presumably satisfying her parents’ desire that she do something educational while here. Her English was said to be good and she herself “bright” and “cooperative.” They hoped I was a “good Christian,” would support moral values, and I assured them the daughter would be safe with me, and their “nanny” could be present throughout. Seemed a little odd, but parents can be paranoids.
I was to be paid in advance. His “agent” in the US was to send me somewhat more than the $300, and I would deposit the check and later, when the daughter arrived, give her or the nanny the excess.
More correspondence ensued, and I arranged to have a public room at the local Chamber of Commerce in which to tutor.
Two days ago, the check arrived, drawn on the Sun National Bank by PCL Repacking Corp of Vineland, NJ. I checked them out cursorily, and they have been in business since 1999. Could not find their phone number, however. The check was for $2330 and signed by Jane Russell, likely not the movie star of bygone years. This was $2000 more than my fee and costs, the extra to be given to daughter or nanny when they arrived in a few weeks.
The excess money was more than I expected, so I had my bank check with Sun National Bank before depositing the check to my account. They were advised by Sun not to honor the check, no further explanation offered.
I immediately wrote back to the “father,” through the craigslist.com email address, the only one he supplied despite my requests for his personal one, and told him what had happened and that his daughter would have to pay in cash before the tutoring sessions would begin. I assumed it was a scam by this point, but wanted to be courteous, in case I was wrong. No reply has been received in two days.
I presume that the way I was going to be cheated was to have the plans suddenly change and have some or all of the money requested to be “returned” to the scammer, from my account, before it became clear that the original check had been worthless. This could have happened if I had not checked with my own bank before depositing the check. [Adage: "You cannot cheat an honest man."]
Cash is king. A check is not cash. Beware
P.S. It has been a week: silence from the scammer, as you might expect. Today I saw a notice in the bank from the FBI warning of frauds using the Internet, and several features were present: masked email address, large over-payment, check on US entity different from the apparent affiliation of the purchaser, overnight delivery of check.