The Lute Society: Small Ads Fraud


We have had a couple of messages from Lute Society members to the effect that fraudsters are continuing to target people selling lutes - and other objects of high value - over the internet.

Here is a typical message from a fraudster, and below that an explanation from the police of how the scam works.

Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2004 7:56 AM


I'm really interested in buying your 10c lute 63.5cm, by Bernd Holzgruben as a gift for my Son. I'll be looking forward to sending me any available picture of the item and also the last price you want to let it go for,so as to make necessary arrangement for the payment. My method of payment is a certified cashier's check that is drawn on a reputable U.K Bank.

I'll like to know cost of shipping to NIGERIA, and if you can't, i'll handle it by contacting my shipping agent for the shipment arrangement. I'm waiting for your mail today.



And another one, from Spain this time (not always from Nigeria!). A lute seller writes: "The sender is a known Spanish fraudster who has sent almost exactly the same email to people selling via other specialist Internet sites. You have already warned members who post small ads, but it may do no harm to quote specific examples. They do not all come from Nigeria! I ignored it and eventually sold the instrument to a bona fide player and purchaser.

Subject: Re: course bandora,
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 7:38 PM

Thanks for the quick response. I am buying from you, anyway the price is OK by me but i will like you to know that payment will be made by certified Check. If this mode of payment is OK by you.

Kindly send your information which you will like to receive the payment from the post man, so that i can instruct my secretary to issued it immediately

Name to be on Check:.....
Address where Check will be received by you:.......
Phone Number's such as Mobile,Land line and Office number:....
Asking Price.........£1200

Never mind about the pick up, it will be after you must have cleared the payment in your Bank and then we can arrange picking it up.

Await your Quick Response so that i can arrange for the payment immediately.

Thanks and Get back

-----Original Message-----
From: raul job
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2014 6:55 AM
Subject: course bandora

Hello Seller,

I want to know if still available for sale,If still get back to me
with your asking price and the present condition of it.

Thanks and get back

And here is the police's explanation of the scam - targeting online vehicle selling as well as lutes:

Detectives in Avon and Somerset are warning people about a sinister new on-line fraud. People who offer their vehicles for sale on the Internet, are being targeted by the unscrupulous fraudsters. The potential buyers usually located in another country contact the sellers with a proposal to buy their vehicle after spotting adverts on the Internet. The offer is usually coupled with an explanation that the buyer has a cheque due to his business from another source and that the cheque is in a larger sum than the agreed cost of the vehicle. The seller is then asked if the cheque can be made payable to them to cover the cost of the vehicle with a further request that the difference is forwarded by the seller back to the buyer. Det Con Andy Davis of Avon and Somerset Police's Fraud Squad said: We believe the scam is being operated by West African crime teams. There have been a number of approaches to people in the force area during the past few weeks. It is known that cheques when sent to the sellers, are either stolen of forged. Any difference between the price of the vehicle and the value of the cheque, if sent back to the buyer, will be a potential loss to the victim. It is well known that these crime teams - who operate from all over the world - regularly bombard e-mail users with requests for personal or company bank details in order to transfer huge amounts of (fictitious) money, with an offer of large financial rewards. Those who take up these invitations inevitably end up losing considerable amounts of their own money.

It now seems that these same people have diversified and are now trying to con vehicle sellers out of their money. Our advice to anyone who is approached in this way is to immediately cancel any dealings with the person concerned. There is no logical reason for anyone wanting to pay for goods in this way and people selling vehicles are advised to seek more regular and secure methods of payment such as a banker's draft, said DC Davis.

Another (cheque washing?) fraud in February 2019:

A seller writes:

On another matter, I wanted to bring to your attention to circulate if you think appropriate that I suffered a fraudulent attempt to buy the 6-course lute that I had advertised in the Lute Society’s small ads pages. Someone called or calling themselves James David (or possibly David James) enquired about my lute from the email address He seemed seriously interested, although this was a little difficult to judge as his written English was rather confused. He claimed to be in Belgium and said he would pay by Eurocheque, and he then sent me a Eurocheque. When it arrived it was written for a sum considerably greater than needed to cover the cost of the lute, currency conversion, crate and shipping; this seemed rather odd, but what was much odder was that the cheque was a Bank of Ireland cheque drawn on the account of the Killenard Community Centre and signed by their Treasurer!!! When I asked about this, ”James David” said that he used to work there and that the cheque had been issued as a favour to him. This was beyond fishy, and I I did try to contact the Killenard Community Centre, but had no response. So I tried paying it into my bank account, and not surprisingly it was returned as fraudulent. I heard no more from “James David” until I received the following email from him a few days ago, using the same address:

Hello Seller,
I saw your post concerning goods for sale with the last price
of it I am so interested in buying it.However,can I have a photo
attached and send to my email ? Hope payment with cashier cheque for
the payment ?
I await your reply,


His emails about the lute never said that he would use a cashier’s cheque drawn on another’s account, he didn’t propose I send him anything until payment had cleared, and there was no mention of Nigeria! He proposed that he would send the cheque, and I should wait for it to clear before sending the lute. The only way his scam would have worked was if the cheque cleared, and I could only assume that he thought there was a reasonable chance this would happen: in which case I would have sent the lute, and his only gain was possession and possible resale of the lute; or, more likely perhaps, he would have said he’d changed his mind and needed a refund. But we never got to the point where he proposed anything that would have led to me sending him money. I didn’t see what I had to lose in pursuing it as far as I did, because up to the point that I received the cheque he was not asking me for anything. When I saw that the cheque was drawn on the Killenard Community Centre’s account of course it all seemed obviously fraudulent, but my Bank said the best thing to do was to try to pay in the cheque. The fraud unit at central cheque clearing said this was a clear (and very common) case of someone trying to use washed cheques. It puzzles me that he was trying to get this deception past the bank for his plan to work, rather than simply using it to bait me to send him a refund as you suggest. But if he’d been trying to get me to send him money based on receipt of the cheque alone, he would have had to use something more convincing than a cheque from the Killenard Community Centre. In other words, it looked far more likely that it was an attempt to defraud the bank and that I was merely part of the mechanism rather than the main target.

Note 'David James' is a known fraudster's name