By Gamaliel Ortiz
Karen Leardini listed a 12-week-old Chihuahua for $300 on the Sacramento Bee classified pages Thursday. By today, she had the attention of two callers, but they weren't the buyers she wanted.
The first caller, who identified herself as a grandmother from Texas, phoned Leardini using TDD or Telecommunications Device for the Deaf. The woman, who said the puppy was for her granddaughter, was willing to pay an additional $100 for doing business and also offered to pay transportation costs.
After the initial call, the unnamed caller insisted on e-mail correspondence, in which she urged Leardini to take the deal and "cash the check right away."
Leardini's alarm bells went off after that request. She figured that the call and e-mails were part of a scam. If so, the Sacramento resident would have been out the check's amount, the money for transportation, potential bank fees and, of course, her puppy "Tilly Mouse" (photo left).
Katie Robison, media specialist with the Better Business Bureau (Northeast California), identified these red flags that point to the potential scam: the buyer was from out of state and she was willing to pay extra.
"A lot of times, it's better to deal locally," she said. "With these ads you want to say cash only. We've seen it before: People call in and they get a check, cash it and 14 days later they hear that the check is fake."
The TDD system makes locating a potential scammer difficult, Robison said.
In addition, scammers using TDD try to get sellers "to think with their heart strings and not use common sense." That apparently was the case with Leardini who, while sympathetic for the "deaf grandmother," immediately stopped e-mailing the Texan after she insisted on cashing the check quickly.
After reading her last e-mail, Leardini got another call, this time from a "grandfather" using TDD.
Robison's advice: "See if they want to pay cash only. That's not going to bounce."
For more information about concerns about scams, contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or call the office, (916) 443-6843.
Call The Bee's Gamaliel Ortiz, (916) 321-1022.