DON'T GET BURNED


THIS ISN'T ABOUT A KITCHEN ACCIDENT.  It has nothing to do with a Chambers stove.  It's about avoiding "getting burned" when selling anything for cash.

Remember when Cash was King?  Well, sorry to say... things have changed.  Have you noticed how common it is for grocery store and other cashiers to check your cash by holding the bills up to the light, and/or swiping them with those yellow highlighters?  They don't do it to annoy or insult you, they don't do it just for fun.  They do it because they are motivated by the everyday reality of fake currency.  It's worth a cashier's time so that their drawer isn't "short" at the end of their shift.
If you're selling a stove, a vehicle, or anything worth significant cash, make sure you research and know how to tell the difference between the counterfeit and real stuff.  It's so easy to learn the distinguishing characteristics of the most common fakes (via watermarks, security strips, reflective ink, serial numbers, etc), that there's really no excuse not to know.  Here's one great website

I recently got burned by phony bills selling my old stove-hauler van via Craigslist.  Talk about feeling like a chump!  The fakes were obvious, but only IF I had known what to look for.  Rather than let shame and revenge get the better of me, I'm trying to see things like this as a life lesson.  It certainly meets my three sure signs that an education has occurred:

  1. it cost money
  2. it hurt
  3. it took time

Okay, so now I know better…  What good is that really gonna do me?  By the time I get around to selling my new van 10 year from now, I'll have forgotten all of this.

Well, no point in keeping this "valuable" education all to myself.  So here's a School of Hard Knocks lesson for the benefit of anyone who can use it. 

The cops and Secret Service say this scam is a common one:  the guy arrives on foot or public trans (no car or license to trace), offers some kind of sob story to gain your sympathy (get your guard down, lower the price), refuses to sign the title ("My wife's the one with the good credit/driving record.  The title will be under her name"), and pays with a mix of fake and real cash.

Then they drive away and sell it on Craigslist a few weeks later, effectively "laundering" the counterfeit bills.  The mix of fake and real cash you've received makes it likely that it will be awhile before you, or some store or bank that you hand the cash over to, will notice that some of your bills are fake.  (YOU could be in big trouble paying with fake cash).  AND, once you've spent some or most of the "evidence" and you realize you've been had, you are in an awkward situation.

Read on.

Won't the Secret Service or cops arrest the scammer?  Well, sure…  Maybe.  The Secret Service told me that unless the fake cash amounts to $3000 or above, it is the jurisdiction of the local police.  

The police told me that, to file a police report, I'd have to hand over all the money, even the real stuff, because it is useful evidence.  The choice was mine:  file a report, lose the little bit of real dough I had left, MAYBE have to show up in court to testify IF they ever find the guy (it was inferred to me that, among other types of local crime, this is not a high priority), MAYBE the case drags on for years and MAYBE the case is unsuccessful.  Was it worth it my time and money to try to nail this guy?  Gee whiz, don't we think that the scammers have figured all this out and know it's unlikely they'll be caught?

To save YOUR time, effort and money, know how to avoid the scam!  Take a few minutes to research the latest on identifying counterfeit money.  Then, set up the sale to protect yourself:  Before you agree to have a prospective buyer show up, make sure you tell them that they MUST agree to the following if they show up and decide to purchase the car.  (Explain to them that, while these demands might seem harsh, they benefit any legitimate buyer by motivating them to closely inspect their cash before spending it to avoid trouble from unknowingly passing fake cash, and to be prepared with the proper information for the two documents they will fill out (Title and Bill of Sale) that protect both parties (Illinois and other states do not require a Bill of Sale, but it can benefit BOTH parties):

  • They will allow you to closely inspect their cash
  • They agree you will call 911 if you find ANY fake cash in their payment
  • They agree you will keep the ENTIRE payment until the cops arrive to sort things out.
  • It the cash checks out OK, they will hand you their ID and let you write down all the info. 
  • They will let you photograph them.  
  • They will print THEIR name, address and phone number (must match ID) on the Bill of Sale.
  • They will put THEIR signature (not ANYONE ELSE's) on both the title AND a Bill of Sale


If a prospective buyer objects to ANY of these demands, just say "No thanks" to the likely scammer and wait until a legitimate buyer calls.  Just like a diligent grocery store cashier, it's worth your time to make sure you don't get "shorted".

PS:  I am not a lawyer, cannot provide legal advice, and am providing this information for entertainment purposes only.