I was almost arrested as a Criminal Today

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need an attorney!This is actually pretty funny, because I have this bizarre personal phobia about going to prison. 

I am not a criminal, I assure my good readers, but someone I know- who used to be a mortgage broker- actually went to prison a couple of years ago because she wasn't diligent and some of her loan officers commited fraud.

She didn't actually do anything...the loan officers she employed did some dishonest stuff.

So, because I am a little neurotic, it freaked me out.  Now I have this irrational fear that one of my employees will make a legitimate mistake here or there and the FBI will be kicking my door in at any moment while I franitically dial the best criminal defense attorney in Phoenix.

...but I digress.  What happened to me is that I listed my car with AutoTrader- that is, I wanted to sell my old car.  It was listed for a couple of months and I really didn't get any phone calls.  Doesn't anybody want a 1999 Lexus with a dented front fender and 96,000 miles?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago this guy calls me and says that he wants to buy my car, but that he was "out of state."  He said he would buy it without even looking at it, due to the pictures I had posted on the internet.  He said he would arrange for shipping of the vehicle.  Basically, he told me this was a done deal.

I was thrilled.

Then, it got a little weird.  He told me that he had already purchased the Cashier's Check and had it made out for $16,000 - which was $3000 more than I was asking for the car.  He was looking at several vehicles, he explained, and none was more expensive than $16,000...blah blah blah.

He asked if I would wire him a $3000 rebate after I cashed the thing.  Uh...  Of course, my Spider Sense was tingling, but if he sent the money, I couldn't find anything illegal about it.  In fact, I kind of liked it.

So the check came on Saturday.

It was a beautiful Washington Mutual Cashier's Check in the amount of $16,000 - just like he promised.  Watermarks and the whole deal.

Here is what the guy anticipated:  That there wasn't a Washington Mutual near my home (they don't have physical banks in every state, do they?) and that I would just deposit it into my account.  Maybe it would clear at first and he would have already gotten his $3000.  Maybe my bank wouldn't find the error for a while.

Unfortunately for the jack-ass, there is a Washington Mutual branch one-half mile from my front door.  Because I like holding $16,000 in my greedy little hands, I brought the check into WaMu this morning.  The teller took the check and than disappeared into the back for a little while.  About fifteen minutes went by and I was getting agitated and I was about to throw a fit.  That's when the detective tapped me on the shoulder.

Bottom line:  I almost got arrested for trying to walk out of WaMu with $16,000 from a fake cashier's check.  I think that's probably the average "take" that a bank robber gets.  I was just doing it without a gun.  It took quite a bit of explaining, but after running my name and finding that I've never even had a traffic ticket, the detective eased up.  I gave him the emails and blah blah blah.  After a couple of hours, it's over.

So I just thought I would warn my fellow ActiveRainers about this scam.  I know most of you are thinking that I am probably a moron, but the cashier's check was brilliantly forged and, like I said, if I got the green in my hand, I couldn't see any violation of the law.

I guess the moral of the story is:  Don't trust people who don't live in the same state as you do.  Everybody outside of Arizona is evil as far as I am concerned.  (kidding)

Are you looking for a Arizona Refinance?  Visit National Wholesale Mortgage for outstanding California mortgage rates. 


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SEO Expert: Michael George
Phoenix, AZ
Real Estate and Law Firm SEO
Yeah, the old, I'm-going-to-prison feeling in the pit of one's stomach.  Thanks for the info Billy.  I'm going to check out that site right now.
Mar 19, 2007 07:44 AM #7
Karlie Stanton, AutoTrader.com

Hi Karen,

Your suspicions about the buyer offering to give you a cashier's check for more money than the asking price were right on. The next time you buy or sell a car on AutoTrader.com, feel free to check out our Fraud Awareness Tips, where we provide important information for both buyers and sellers. Our "Common-Sense Advice for Sellers" section has several situations that should raise a red flag - all seem to relate in your case.

Thanks for sharing your story - as we state on the site - awareness is the best defense. Please let me know if there's anything else I can do.  


Karlie Stanton

Mar 19, 2007 09:33 AM #8
Karlie Stanton, AutoTrader.com

Sorry - not sure why that link did not work. Going to try to provide it for you again -- Fraud Awareness Tips


Mar 19, 2007 09:35 AM #9
Mark Hetrick
List In MLS Realty, LLC - Fort Myers, FL
Fort Myers Real Estate

That sounds like a classic scam.  Good story though good thing you went to a WaMu.  People like that suck!  We got scammed on some SEO work last year.  Got to watch out for this stuff.

Mar 19, 2007 10:01 AM #10
Tom Lyons
makingyoufindable.com - Belleville, ON
Making You Findable
This stuff happens all the time, and that fact they scammers are very good at it.  There's no reason to feel like you should have known.  We all assume the good in people, unfortunately this scammers know how to use that to their advantage.  At least you can say you had an adventure! :)
Mar 19, 2007 10:51 AM #11
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
Many people may be out $3,000 for biting on this, but I doubt any of them think that THEY'll be the one arrested. It's good you had a paper trail.
Mar 19, 2007 11:09 AM #12
Roberta Lee
Century 21 Olde Tyme - Norco, CA
Norco Corona Riversid Homes For Sale


 This may be funny now but I'm sure it wasn't at the time.  I have the same paranoia that you do.  And just like you I have never been in any trouble and I have an AAAA+ rating with in car insurance company.  But for some reason I just have this fear.  I guess that is why I pay such strict attention to the contract and paper work I handle in our profession. I have heard other agents in my office talking about being sued and it send chills up my spine.  None of them have had to pay out any money but just the thought of it scares me silly.

I'm so glad it all turned out for you and I agree, well kinda, you can't trust any one that lives outside of California and/or Arizona.  :)  :)

Good post.

Mar 19, 2007 06:19 PM #13
Brendan Burgess
Los Angeles, CA
Frightining stuff. It seems like everyday you hear about some kind of scam like this. well i will ask around for anyone who might want to buy your car as i hear that you still have it.
Mar 20, 2007 09:18 AM #14
Kaushik Sirkar
Call Realty, Inc. - Chandler, AZ
just like the standard scams from nigeria....be very weary of the internet!!!
Mar 21, 2007 03:35 PM #15
Julia Wei
Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer - Palo Alto, CA
This is a rampant scam in California on the Craigslist and I have heard many stories like this.  I bought my car on Craigslist and the seller and I walked to the Wells Fargo together.  He told me about how he got scammed on some computer equipment he sold with the fake cashiers check.
Apr 05, 2007 08:08 AM #16
David A. Podgursky PA
THE PODGURSKY GROUP @ Re/Max Direct - Boynton Beach, FL
THE PODGURSKY GROUP - Make the Right Move!
Karen, you've GOT to stop going to the bank in a trench coat and ski mask!
Apr 09, 2007 02:54 AM #17
Joey Khan
Re/Max Realty Specialists - Mississauga, ON
Woah! I actually heard of this kind of fraud. Remember if it sounds too good to be true it usually is. 
Apr 09, 2007 03:06 AM #18
Rita Taylor
None - Sanford, NC
Sanford NC Real Estate - Homes for Sale in Sanford North Carolina


Consider yourself lucky.  A guy named Matthew Shinnick DID get arrested from a similar scam and paid over $14,000 in legal fees fighting it.



May 12, 2007 03:31 PM #19
Robin Willis
Tucson Expert Agents LLC - Tucson, AZ
CDPE, SRES, Designated Broker
It is scary to think that you can lose more than the cash you "refund" to the criminal; you can actually become a criminal yourself!!
May 15, 2007 10:49 AM #20
Has anyone had the experience of getting a cashier's check from the bank themselves, In my friends case ironically, it was a CA WaMu branch) for the exact amount (a new car purchase) then have the bank stop the check, and you get arrested for auto theft, fraud, etc. 

The jist is, my friend (currently sitting in jail while this matter gets resolved) Had gotten a cashier's check for the purchase of a new lexus ls450l. WaMu issued a cashier's check on a deposit that had been made by a family member in southern cal, they held the depost for 14 days, on the 14th day when they releaed the funds, he went, purchased a cashier's check went to the dealer, picked up the car, 5 days later, police show up guns drawn, kicking in doors, taking anything that even remotely resembles research one does for the purchase of a car. The police discovery report doesn't match the actual timeline of events as they occured. I have the feeling that WaMu is the real criminal here. I won't deny that my friend made his own errors in judgement, but I don't know of any bank that would issue a large cashier's check without knowing the funds were there. Has Anyone ever had anything like this happen to them?
May 28, 2007 11:59 AM #21
David Lawson - NMLS #252510
Gateway Funding - Yucaipa, CA

My daughter had a similar experience. I told her since it seemed fishy, to go into the bank and talk to the branch manager and inform them what was happening first. She did, and it was a scam. It also helped them catch this individual though.


May 28, 2007 04:54 PM #22
Dawn Workman
Veracity Real Estate Group, LLC - Camas, WA
Camas Real Estate Expert, MBA, 480-540-8100
Karen, I have to say you honestly scared me.  I am a new realtor and met you and was actually referred here at that time, and plan on using you guys when I finally get a client.  So, I am glad that you were not almost arrested because of borderline mortgate fraud, and just for passing a fake check  :)
May 28, 2007 05:48 PM #23
Judy Klahr
EWM of Aventura - Aventura, FL

Had the same thing happen with the "overpayment scam" in a real estate transaction.  We just have to be careful that if anyone is rushing, or it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Glad all turned out well.


Jul 16, 2007 10:42 AM #24
Scott Dovala
Ascent Home Loans - Santa Rosa, CA
Santa Rosa Mortgage and Home Loans


If they give you anymore trouble we will all vouch for you....we have them outnumbered.



Jul 16, 2007 11:25 AM #25
SEO Expert: Michael George
Phoenix, AZ
Real Estate and Law Firm SEO
Thanks Scott!
Jul 16, 2007 12:18 PM #26
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