When Mary Mayfield opened up the check she received from an out-of-state buyer interested in purchasing her vehicle, it was more money than she had originally asked for. That’s where the trouble started.

“I’ve seen those warnings and things on TV before about scammers, and I always thought, ‘why would anybody be that stupid,’ but greed is what does it,” she said. “I was asking for $4,100 and he sent me a check for $6,400. Had it been the right amount, I might not have been so vulnerable.”

Mayfield, 78, listed her car for sale on Craigslist recently. With the posting came adequate warnings about potential scams, which she ignored. On Aug. 1, that buyer texted her interested in the vehicle before overnighting her a check. She deposited the check in her bank on that Friday. 

She exchanged text messages and a few phone calls with the buyer before he mentioned that the extra $1,500 was to pay for a driver that would come pick up the vehicle for him. The buyer gave her an address and told her to wire the extra money to the driver, so she pulled the money out of her bank account and went to the Yuba City Walmart where she could make a money transfer. 

Luckily for her, before she could send it an employee at the Walmart Money Center who was  trained to identify potential scams stepped in.

“While I was waiting in line, I saw a bunch of stuff about being aware. I saw it and thought, ‘not me,’ but the gal that was there started asking me questions about it and said that if she was me, she’d wait to see if the money from the check was actually deposited into my bank, which it turned out it hadn’t been,” she said. 

If it weren’t for that unidentified Walmart employee, Mayfield said, she would have fallen prey to the scam. 

“I wish I would’ve gotten her name to thank her, but I sent a letter to Walmart in hopes that they would do something for her,” Mayfield said. “She saved me a lot of money.” 

Lessons learned

Yuba City Police Lt. Jim Runyen said this particular scamming trick has been around for a long time. These sorts of schemes where there are out-of-state buyers are difficult to track down.

“One of the key things we try to tell people is that if you are going to accept a check in this situation, make sure it clears your bank first. If it’s a big purchase, I’d try to facilitate it through a bank or by meeting at a bank, where people are less likely to try and commit fraud because they are out in the open,” Runyen said. “If it sounds too good to be real, it probably is.”

Mayfield said her main goal is to share her story in hopes of preventing another person from falling victim to a scam. She never thought it would happen to her, until it did.

The good news is she has since sold the car. She was able to find another buyer – a real man from Penn Valley, with real money in hand.

Recommended for you