"Nigerian Scam" Targets Online Sellers

Internet scams are becoming more and more common. But one little-known scam that's been around for years is hitting a little too close to home. It all starts when you try to sell something online.

Matt Sterret of Savannah built a motorcycle and then wanted to sell it to get a new one his daughter can ride. So he and his wife Hollie did what many people are doing. They put it up for sale on the internet.

"The day I posted it, we got an email from a man in Melbourne, Australia, who was interested," said Hollie. "He didn't want to see a picture or anything."

It seemed too easy and just too good to be true. A few weeks went by and they confirmed with the man he would definitely buy the bike.

"He said he would pay full price, he even offered to send extra in order to have a shipping agent come here and sent it to Australia," said Hollie.

The Steretts were a little leery. But then a check for $25,000 came in the mail, $17,000 for them and $8,000 to be wired to the shipping agent. The bank took the check and deposited the money, but Hollie sensed something was wrong and she looked up the man's email address.

"When I looked at [email provider] Fastermail, it was a scam alert when I went online, clear all the way back to 2002," said Hollie.

So the Sterrets immediately called the bank which issued the $25,000 check. It turns out it was fake and the man was part of a what's called the "Nigerian scam." If they had gone through with wiring the shipping agent money, they would have lost $8,000 out of their own account.

"Once you get the actual check, you are like, 'Here it is,'" said Hollie.

But luckily for the Steretts, intuition took over and they stopped the scam. They hope others learn from their close call.

The Steretts filed a police report. They're still selling the bike, but say they're being extra careful about the people who are inquiring about it.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com