Money Order Scams on Thecannon.ca, craigslist, kijiji

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Written by Scott Gilbert

The scam works when you cash a money order for more than you are supposed to receive for something, and wire the remaining balance back to someone. Of course the money order is fake and banks are incredibly sluggish, so you don't find out that you have been scammed until a week or so after the fact and the bank expects you to pay for it.

On this site and others like craigslist and kijiji, there are generally 2 ways that you get in contact with this person. The way I found him initially was through a job posting offering $50 per hour to tutor a high school student. The wage was particularly high, which was one red flag, but I applied anyway.

Someone using the name Gilbert Cardigan emailed me back explaining he was based in the UK and his son was coming to Canada for a month and he wanted his son to receive tutoring while here. He asked for my credentials and for a criminal background check since he could not meet me in person. When I said a criminal background check was too much to ask, he didn't seem to mind.

I was asked for my address to send the money to in advance, and my phone number so he could reach me if needed. A little hesitant, I complied anyway. I had heard of this scam before and wanted to see if this was it, and knew there was little he could do with just my address and phone number.

A few days later he called me and explained that he was having a hard time reaching the nanny his son was supposed to stay with, but wanted to go ahead and send me the funds for the tutoring anyway. Several days after that I received an email where he said he sent me a check for my tutoring fees ($400), plus "funds to be transferred to the nanny for the care of my son". I thought this was odd - I didn't want to be responsible for this, so I replied saying I didn't feel comfortable with that.

An email a few days later from him said the funds were already sent because he knew I would be meeting with the nanny (or at least the son), and at that point in time he could not reach the nanny so needed me to pay once his son arrived. He also informed me that the nanny who was previously unavailable was now back and that I both could and should forward the additional funds to the nanny as soon as possible. He stressed the urgency of the matter with the implication that if I didn't comply, his son would show up in a new country and the nanny he would be staying with would not be paid. Yikes! I didn't want to be responsible for the son not having a place to stay, and I certainly wanted to get paid my $50 per hour for basic tutoring.

A few days later the money order arrived and it looked absolutely perfect. I took it the local BMO and the teller said as far as she could tell it was real. However, she cautioned me not to cash it if I suspected something was wrong because it would put a strike on my account and I would be liable for the funds. She suggested calling the bank that issued it at the number provided on the money order. Of course, the number was not in service. In this case my compensation for the tutoring was supposed to be $400, but the money order was for $2800 US.

A few more red flags from this scam was that the return address on the envelope the money order came in was from Illinois, not the UK. The funds I was supposed to transfer back to the nanny was going to someone in the US, and not someone in Guelph.

The other version of this scam is probably more quited for this website. It tends to happen when you are trying to sell something like a textbook in the classified section. You will receive an email asking you to ship the item out of Guelph, and usually out of the country. The person offers to pay you in advance with a money order and send you a little extra to cover the shipping. You are supposed to either wire this money to "the shipper", or just ship the item and return any extra funds to the buyer. But when the money order arrives for a $60 textbook, that should cost about $10 to ship, you find yourself with an $800 money order. Feeling bad that you have someone else's money - and knowing that they have your name, phone number and address - you send the balance back only to have your bank call you a week later letting you know you are on the hook for the funds.

A few things to look out for with this scam:

1) The emails you receive are generally poorly written with spelling mistakes and improper grammar.

2) The buyer or employer offers to pay you in advance with a money order or certified check

3) The person tends to be from another country.

4) There is a sense of urgency and you are made to feel guilty if you do not comply quickly.

5) You are informed that you will be sent a money order for more than you initially expected, and you must wire the balance to someone via Western Union

6) You may be called by this person, and when you are the number is usually blocked.

7) When the money order arrives it is an excellent fake.

Anyone noticing this scam on thecannon.ca is asked to report it to but please note there is not much we can do about it. You can report this to any number of agencies, but again, little can (or will) be done by them. This scam has been going on in Guelph and on this site for years, and reported many times. It's like the Nigerian prince emails we all get. Just learn to spot them, spread the word, and don't participate - that's your best protection.

Have you experienced this scam or something similar? Please post below if you have.

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  1. Posted by: rituraj on Nov 19, 2008 @ 6:45pm

    lol!even i recieved one such check!but then i seaarched on google and came to know its a scam!so i didnt bother to go any further!!i still get mails from them saying please send the funds and stuff!

  2. Posted by: Michelle on Nov 20, 2008 @ 3:00pm

    I got one of these emails asking for my information and getting promises that a money order would be sent for a womens studies book I posted last year - I had no idea of the scam but I never complied with the email because I told him I only do business on the cannon personally - not through mail, and only with people from the Univeristy - and he eventually left me alone.

  3. Posted by: Taylor on Nov 24, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    It's really unfortunate that people still end up falling for these scams, but for those of us who know better, it can be a source of good entertainment.
    See http://www.419eater.com/html/letters.htm

  4. Posted by: Petra on Nov 24, 2008 @ 4:44pm

    hello everyone,

    I am trying to sell my guitar and these are two of the emails I received.
    I want to share them with you so you have an idea what these emails look like:(names have been changed)

    how are you and your family. im Tim Todd and i'll like to ask for the availability of Musical Instruments. i want to buy it for my younger brother who will be celebrating his birthday next month. kindly get back to me as soon as possible so i can make arrangement for payment.



    Hello seller
    how are you today,i hope there is no stress,i hope you still
    have this item for sale meanwhile i saw your advert so i want you get back to me
    with your last asking prices,so we can procced on this transaction.
    Nice to hear back from you......

  5. Posted by: Chris Hoban on Dec 8, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    I just received a $2500 money order for a Camcorder I am selling on Kijiji for $130, I was supposed to cash it, keep my $$ and "wire " the rest to the "Shipper" in France (at which point they wouls arrange pickup of the camcorder). I suspected this was a scam from the moment I received the money and upon doing reasearch online found this site explaining the scam. The person in contact with me via email was very quick to email me when I should have received the money order, wondering what the hold up was and all that, and I have decided to report them to the RCMP. If you are selling online you should use a pay pal account.
    Thank you for the info, I almost was a sucker for this one.

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