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Craigslist scam targeting WISH-TV reporter Kylie Conway backfires

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In the digital world of buying and selling, it’s far too common that scammers try to take advantage of people. Recently, one of those people happened to be 24-Hour News 8’s anchor/reporter Kylie Conway. Conway not only avoided the scam, but turned it into a lesson.

The scammer went by the name of “William Harwood.” He said he was interested in buying Conway’s washer and dryer listed on Craigslist.

He said he could overnight a check and have his movers come and grab them sometime in the following days. He was quick to respond via email to any of Conway’s questions and even spent time on the phone with her, reassuring her of his good intentions and planning the exchange, which was never going to happen.

After dozens of emails back and forth, Conway called “Harwood” to ask him some questions. The phone call was recorded but FCC regulations restrict WISH-TV from airing the man’s voice. However, the rules do not prohibit Conway from transcribing the call.

He began by thanking Conway for calling and asking how she was doing. He told her he was out of town visiting his mother-in-law and wanted to buy the washer and dryer for his apartment in Michigan City, Indiana.

“It happens more than a lot of people think,” said Carmel Chase Bank manager Shannon Malcolm.

“Harwood” priority mailed Conway a cashier’s check equipped with a tracking number.

“It’s all part of establishing your trust and your confidence,” said Sgt. Keith Minch, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Fraud Unit.

The cashier’s check was mailed Priority through USPS. Although it had a tracking number, it never made it to its destination and was rerouted back to the USPS local hub. One week later, a USPS representative called Conway to tell her it was stopped because it had fraudulent postage. The service would not go into detail about the postage because there’s a fear too much detail of how USPS is detecting the fraud might tip off scammers on how to change things up. The system isn’t flawless though. A second cashier’s check did make it through to 1950 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, the home of WISH-TV. Conway took it straight to Chase Bank.

“They’re just printing a watermark image on the actual check instead of having it be a true watermark,” said Malcolm.

The scammer encouraged Conway to deposit the check via mobile or ATM. He assured her the funds would be available in 24 hours.

“And that’s really why it’s so important to bring these checks to your financial institution so we can use the tools available to us to help protect you and your money,” said Malcolm.

It took Malcolm just seconds to know the check was fake. Just to be sure she double and triple verified it was, in fact, fraudulent. For some this may seem like an easy scam to spot, but people right here in central Indiana fall for scams like this all this all the time, according to Malcom. “I’ve had three just this week.”

And if you do fall victim, there’s not a lot of options to get your money back.

“If time passes, depending on the type of payment that you did, chances are that money has been transferred multiple times and it is nearly impossible to get back,” said Minch.

The check was written for $1,990 which was nearly $1,300 more than the asking price for the washer and dryer. “Harwood” said that the extra money was for the movers who were picking up several other things for him that day. He wanted Conway to deposit the check then wire $1,300 to the movers as a guarantee before they came to pick up the items.

“These guys are looking for quick cash,” said Minch.

If Conway had fallen victim she would have wired the funds and then likely would have never heard back from “Harwood.” When the check bounced, she would be on the hook for the missing funds. Just to test how far “Harwood” would go, Conway asked him point blank if the check was real and if this was a scam. His reply? “I am a man of my word and my word is my honor. I can assure that you have nothing to worry about.”

Sergeant Minch says if a buyer or seller wants any kind of immediate, remote payment whether it be gift cards, cash cards, money gram or wire transfer it’s likely a scam. He says if you have any question at all you can give the IMPD Fraud Unit a call 317-327-3650 or call IMPD’s non-emergency number.

And as Malcolm recommends, always take a check in question to a bank to be verified by a professional.

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