(To avoid scams when people pick up games in person, jump to here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/how-to-not-get-ripped-off-in-pinball-vids-guide/page/7#post-4366586 )
PROFESSIONAL CON ARTISTS
These guys really are pros. They make their living ripping people off. They use the very roots of human nature - Greed, False Beliefs and CONfidence to steal from you.
Professionals have NO shame in taking your money. They believe that you are rich and they are poor.
Now on to the true story:
You are selling your TAF on Craigslist, Mr. Pinball or Pinside. You have it listed for $7,000. It's a high price, but you left wiggle room so you can haggle.
You get a bunch of emails. Tire kickers, Choggards offering you $3,500, people wanting a bunch of close up pics, people asking very technical questions, - but then one email stands out to you because they have just one simple question "Do you still have the item?" . This looks like the path of least resistance, so you answer this email first, and start the downhill process to you getting scammed.
(We are going to pause the story here to look at what is going on in the background.
The email you received likely came from Nigeria, Romania or Ireland. This is where many professional "boiler room" scam operations are located.
These Boiler Rooms send out millions of emails each day.
They need to be efficient in sorting out likely victims over other people who are going to wise up during the process and waste their time.
Read the above sentence again.
You have passed the "likely victim" test. You answered an email that no normal person would ever answer. You answered an email that does not even name the title of the item for sale.
They asked about "THE ITEM". Not the Adams Family, not pinball table, not even "the game".
They asked about "THE ITEM"; and you, like an idiot, replied to them.
The people working in the boiler rooms **could** just put the name of the item into the email, and that, of course, would draw in more responses . But they don't want more responses, they want responses from the dumbest people. And the dumbest people will be the ones who answer someone inquiring about "The Item". See how you passed the test? You have been pre-qualified to be scammed.
Back to the story.)
So in a few hours the "buyer" has sent you a reply to your email.
He says that he is satisfied with the condition of the item and feels the price is fair at the agreed upon $7000 USD.
He would like to buy it!
He is currently traveling abroad on business, so his agent will pick up the game once the payment clears your bank.
He asks for your name and address to make the Cashier's Check or Money Order out to.
He signs the email with a "God Bless" and his name is Dr Richard Smith.
You call out to your wife with joy "Honey, the guy is going to buy the game and is not even coming out to look at it!!!
( At this point, any intelligent person would see so many red flags that they would never reply to that email. But not you, you are blinded by greed. You are going to get top dollar for your game!
Let's look at why that email is toxic to people of normal intellect:
1. He says he is satisfied with the condition of the game.
Did he ever ask you any questions about the game's condition? No.
Did he ever ask for more pictures? No.
Would any real person buy something for $7000 and not ask a few questions about its condition? No.
But you just "figure" the guy is rich and too busy to ask normal questions.
2. Agreed upon $7,000 USD.
Have you EVER used the term "United States Dollars" in a normal transaction? No.
This would tell you that the sender of the email is very unfamiliar with the way US citizens converse about currency.
"Agreed Upon" Did you guys ever discuss the price? No.
3. Price is FAIR
Your price is high. There are 20,000 TAFs in the world and this guy found you, and your high price, and now wants it without seeing it? You believe this? Really?
4. He is currently traveling on business
If you were traveling, would that be the time you were also shopping for a major purchase like a $7,000 used pinball machine?
Would that be the ideal time in your life to get Cashier's Checks made up? When you are in another country, far from your bank?
It's not like he was traveling in your neighborhood and saw it at your garage sale.
A suspicious person might think it was a convent situational set up to scam you. But not you, you are going to get top dollar for your game!
5. His "agent" is going to pick up the game
His agent? What is he a famous author or a rock star?
Again, normal Americans would say a shipper will pick up the game, never their agent.
6. The payment has to clear your bank first.
Here is the CONfidence part of the con.
How could it be a scam, if the payment is going to clear your bank first?
He can't take the money back once the check clears, right?
He is actually trusting YOU that you won't just keep the money and the machine. He has confidence in you! You like that.
7. Cashier's Check or Money Order
Here is where the False Beliefs part of the scam comes in.
We all know that Cashier's Checks are "as good as cash", right? (NO!)
We all know that Money Orders clear the bank in two days, right? (NO!)
We all know that as soon as your bank statement shows the funds are available, the Check has cleared, right? (NO! How friggin' stupid can you be ????)
If you only come away from this guide with one idea in your head, make it this one:
PERSONAL CHECKS, CASHIER'S CHECKS AND MONEY ORDERS ALL TAKE 3-4 WEEKS TO CLEAR YOUR BANK !!!!!
Your bank is not special.
The teller at the bank knows nothing about the length of time a check takes to clear. Tellers are minimum wage workers who cash your payroll checks - same as Rocco at the party store.
8. He is a Doctor and says "God Bless"
Here is the CONfidence game again.
He is a Doctor. We like to trust doctors. We often trust doctors with our very lives.
He says "God Bless". He is a religious man. We often feel more trust towards people who are deeply religious. Thou Shall Not Steal, and all that…..
Back to the story.)
So you have sent the good Doctor your name and address and now he has OVERNIGHTED you the check.
Wow, you are impressed. He must REALLY want you game, because overnighting anything costs money!
And look at that, instead of $7,000 he made the check out for $8,700 !!!!!
Sheesh, this guy has so much money, he does not know what he is doing with it. No wonder he is paying top dollar for your game.
You email the doctor and he gushes with embarrassment and apologies. He got your check amount mixed up with a different one he was sending. Or his bank made out the check and accidentally included the Taxes or Duty. Oh my.
He asks that you go ahead and deposit that check. He trusts you.
Then just send him back $1,500 and keep the extra $200 for your inconvenience. And he stresses, don't send him the money until your bank says the money has been deposited.
(OK, I've got to ask, have you EVER, even a single time in your life, accidentally overpaid anybody by $1700 ?? No?
How about by $100? No? It does not really happen, does it? )
You take the check directly to the bank.
The check looks good. Thick paper, red white & blue logo, the payable amount embossed in a rainbow of ink. This check certainly was not printed on some scammers ink jet printer with all that embossing!
The teller dutifully takes the check and gives you back a deposit ticket.
You ask how long until that check clears and she says "Funds are generally available in 48 hours".
Nice. You will know if that check is good in two days!
The next day you check your balance online at lunch, and the $8,700 is not in your account yet.
The second day it's there! The $8,700 is in your account.
You tell your wife, who was suspicious about the whole transaction, that you were right, the check was good.
You send an email to the Doctor and tell him the check has cleared.
He sends you back an email apologizing that he is embarrassed to tell you, but he has been robbed while traveling! They took his Wallet, Credit Cards, and his Passport. He is in great peril.
He needs you to Western Union that $1500 to him right away so he can pay his hotel bill! Otherwise the police are holding him for non-payment!
You of course, feel really bad that this happened to the Doctor, so you rush out and send him back his overpayment. You feel so bad you send him the entire $1700 overpayment back.
He thanks you for your kind help. He lets you know that his agent will be in contact with you the moment the Doctor can get everything straightened out in his life.
You go out and buy a NIB game with your $7,000.
Four weeks later, your wife calls you at work.
A letter came from the bank.
That check from the Doctor, it was fake!
You got a chargeback for $8700 , a $30 bounced check fee. And you sent him $1700 of your own money.