How Skepticism Saved Me From Getting Ripped Off!

Well maybe I should not use the term “skepticism”…

But critical/rational thinking most definitely saved me from losing $1500!

I am in the process of selling off some items.  The purpose is twofold. 

1)      I have no use for the items anymore

2)      I am saving up funds for a motorcycle

So I put an old guitar up for sale (a guitar that I have had for some time but no longer play anymore).  I listed the guitar for $1500 and waited to see if I got any offers.  I immediately got an inquiry from an individual names Charles.  He was more than happy to take the guitar off my hands.  GREAT! (I thought to myself).  The only problem was that he lived in the USA.  Consequently he would be unable to personally come and pick up the guitar (as I currently reside in Manitoba, Canada). 

At this point my critical thinking skills kicked in and I thought to myself:

Why would a person from the USA being looking through the Canadian Buy/Sell website (where the guitar was listed).  The guitar is priced to sell, but the cost to ship the guitar would most likely negate the cost of purchasing the guitar used as opposed to simply buying the guitar new.  But hey, if this guy is willing to pay the money, that is not my problem!

During our email exchange, Charles informed me that he would not actually be shipping the guitar to the USA, but instead the UK (the reason he gave is that the guitar was a present for his father).  At this point Charles informed me that in addition to the $1500 for the guitar, he was also going to be sending me an additional $1500 to ship the guitar to the UK. 


Now some red flags are going up!

Back into critical thinking mode:

Why is this guy willing to spend $3000 on a guitar that is definitely not worth that amount?  The guitar in question is an extremely nice guitar, but it is not worth $3000.  It is a hot rodded production guitar that has been appraised at $1700-$1800 (and all of the hot rodded components are available for purchase at most any guitar shop).  The guitar is not a custom, one-off or vintage instrument.  So why on earth would this guy be willing to pay so much for it?

I decided to proceed, but with caution…

I instruct Charles to send me a money order for $3000. 

One week later I receive a letter in the mail from a name and address that I do not recognize.  I open the letter and it contains a printed “check”, with my name on it, for $3000.  With no further contents in the letter I can only assume that this “check” is from Charles.  A quick Email exchange confirms that the letter was indeed from Charles (though his name is no were to be found on the letter or check).  I question him regarding why he sent me a check versus a money order (like I had asked for).  He informs me that the “check” is a certified check and is “the same thing as a money order”.  At this point he also tells me that I do not need to ship the guitar, but instead I need to wire the $1500 (for the shipping) to a shipping company that he has already made arrangements with. 

Some additional red flags going up…

I proceed to the bank to deposit the check.  The teller indicates to me that she cannot confirm that the check is indeed “certified”.  Additionally, she informs me that regardless of whether or not the “check” is certified, there is a 10 day hold on all out of country checks.  She does inform me that I do have access to up to $1500 of the funds (which I am told is the policy of most banks).  However, if the check bounces it is my responsibility to cover cost.          


More red flags…

Using my better judgement/critical thinking, I decide NOT to access any of the funds, and wait for the check to clear before doing anything with the money.

I return home from the bank, check my email inbox and open a message from Charles.  The email contains the information for the “shipping company” that is going to transport the guitar.  However the inform does not contain the name of a company, just the name of a person. 


More red flags…

Are we starting to sense a pattern here…

I contact Charles and update him regarding the current situation.  He tells me “not to worry” that he is “good for the money” and to just “wire the money to the shipping company”.  I inform him that I do not feel comfortable doing that, and that I am going to wait the ENTIRE 10 days to ensure that the check does in fact clear.  After this email exchange I received daily messages from Charles requesting that I simply wire the money to the “shipping company” because he was “rather anxious to get the guitar to his father in the UK” and continued to reinforce that he is “good for the money”. 

Guess what happened….

His check bounced!  Additionally, the bank informed me that the “check” was mark as “fictions”

Despite several attempts I have yet to have heard back from Charles regarding the above situation.  I can only image that because his attempts to scam me failed, he has no further reason to communicate with me.

So why have I annotated this entire story?

Simple really…

To prove the point that critical thinking is not an abstract concept that only applies to individuals in the lab/classroom.  Critical thinking is an extremely valuable tool/skill set that can be used on a daily basis in a variety of different settings.  Hey it may even save you from getting ripped off some day!


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