A 73-year-old Athens man who advertised a boat for sale became the target of scam artists trying to take him for a ride.

The would-be victim, acting on information from the local Western Union office, avoided losing money to the scheme and reported the fraud attempt to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Fraud Complaint Department.

The goal of the scam was to have the Athens man cash a check for $4,500 and wire the perpetrators a large amount of cash in return. Ultimately, the check would bounce leaving the man holding the bag for the transaction.

The chain of events began in October when the Athens man advertised the boat for $1,500. He first received a call from someone who identified herself as a telephone operator. The operator said the call was on behalf of a woman named Linda Collins who was hearing impaired. That set off a series of e-mail communications between the Athens man and Collins. Finally, Collins offered him the full price for the boat, plus $100 to reserve it for her.

“She said she wanted to buy the boat, even though she hadn’t seen it,” the Athens man said. “She didn’t answer my questions about what city and state she was in. She also didn’t say where she had seen the ad, which was kind of suspicious.”

The man said he was also suspicious of the choppy English in the e-mails.

Collins told the man she would be sending a check for $4,500 from which he was to deduct the cost of the boat plus the $100 to reserve the boat. The rest of the amount was to cover the payment of a person who would pick-up the boat and handle the shipping. Collins advised the seller to send the money immediately.

“There’s the scam right there,” he said. “Why would she want me to send the money by Western Union to Miami, Florida?”

The Athens man received a check, dated Nov. 1, from Capital Marketing Services Inc. in New York, for the $4,500. On the check were the words “instant cash,” with the word instant spelled instanat.

“I’d say they have that same check go out to a lot of victims. It was mailed from Bensonville, Illinois,” the Athens man said.

The would-be victim told the local Western Union office of the scheme and was told it was indeed a scam. He was told to refrain from cashing the check. He said he was concerned for the people who might fall prey to this and similar web schemes.

The FBI advises anyone approached by a scam not to send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

If you have information about a fraud report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.

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