Businessman avoids Craigslist check scam

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By John Whitlock

With continued growth of Internet shopping and buying and selling goods on-line, an Owen County businessman recently avoided falling into a world-wide trap.
Ron Reimer, owner of Kentucky Ridge Country Communications which provides cable television service for Owen County, said he was oddly suspicious after he got a quick response from an ad for tires for sale on Craigslist, an Internet site specializing in person-to-person buying and selling of items.
“I bet it wasn’t 30 seconds after I put the ad up that I got contacted and this buyer told me he would take the tires and asked me to go ahead and take down the ad.”
Reimer and the buyer, who identified himself at Brett Ratner, began corresponding through email about the price and how the tires would be paid for.
Brett Ratner is also the name of a prominent Hollywood film director and was using a “gmail” email account that is free to the public.
In his example exchanges, Reimer said there were indications something might be wrong.
Ratner wrote that he would send a check “as its the only way I can pay you at the moment,” and unusual grammar such as using the word “advert” when referring to the Craigslist ad.
The buyer said he would send a check to cover the cost of the tires and make arrangements to pick up the tires after the check had cleared.
After a couple of days without hearing from Ratner, Reimer received an email indicating a “family emergency” had delayed the payment and that the wrong check had been sent to him.
The email says the check had been made out to him but for the wrong amount. Instead of $325 that had been agreed upon, the check was written out for $1,850.
The email instructed Reimer to cash the check at his bank and send the balance back to him in the form of a Western Union Money Gram.
It was this stipulation that prompted Reimer to contact the Kentucky State Police.
“When I got the envelope with the check, I didn’t even open it. I opened it in front of the state police,” Reimer said.
The state police confirmed it was most likely a fairly common scam.
When the check is cashed through someone’s bank account, if the check comes back as bad, the amount of the check is removed from the casher’s account.
Ratner used a Tampa, Fla. address. The check was written from Old Republic Title Agency in Phoenix, Ariz. but the FedEx envelope that contained the check carried a Las Vegas, Nev. address.
As police began to investigate the matter, Ratner began sending panicky emails and threats of legal action when the check was not cashed.
“Hello, is like you think am kidding with what I said about the FBI. Okay am gonna track you down for sure because I don’t believe people like you should exist ... Someone will Scam you or Gun you down soonest ... you are running away with my money and a big thief,” one email from Ratner said.
Under advisement of the state police, who are still conducting an investigation, Reimer is no longer in contact with Ratner and has turned the matter over to law enforcement.