Enterprise-Record (Chico)

The ups and downs of yard sales

- By Jake Hutchison jhutchison@chicoer.com

CHICO >> Let me tell you a story about the time I got scammed at my own yard sale.

Just over a decade ago, I decided to co-host a yard sale with my grandma at her house in Paradise so we could get rid of some clutter. I had accumulate­d some music gear over the years that I didn't use regularly enough to justify keeping so I set it up in one corner of the yard for anyone interested. From my memory, it consisted of an old keyboard, a cheap acoustic guitar and a few extra bits like a guitar slide that was too big for my finger.

I didn't put price stickers on any of them, or at least I hadn't yet. An older gentleman showed some interest in the slide and asked how much it cost. It was a glass slide that, if I recall, I marked at three bucks. He then asked me if I had anything else music related and I went to do one last double-take in the house. When I came back out, the keyboard, guitar and slide were gone and he was driving off. He left three dollars on the table.

This is how I learned about yard sale scammers. People who go to the sales just to turn around and resale the items they buy but marked up. That year, the hot commodity was musical instrument­s and equipment. It's a dumb scam. They pick up some cheap thing, imply that it's what they are interested in buying, you give them the price and they act like that was the price of everything there. And that is how you fundamenta­lly change a young hopeful 20-year-old into a raging cynic.

In hindsight, there was something strange to how he worded his questions and his body language that I didn't immediatel­y pick up on. He wanted me to think he was just talking about the slide but left it open as if he was speaking for the lot of it.

I bring this up because this column has typically focused on phone and internet scams but has lacked in the old fashion, in-person scams.

After doing some research, it seems yard sale scams are still alive and well, and not just limited to resellers. Yard sales are a prime place to spend fake currency because the average Joe likely doesn't know how to spot fake $20s/50s/100s. Then, when they take it to the bank for depositing, they find out one of the big bills is a phony. Now you might remember someone giving you a $100 bill, but if it's less than that it will be hard to gauge who could have given it to you and even harder to track that person down.

One of the easiest ways to spot fake currency is to have the real deal on hand for comparison. Other ways include checking the texture of the bill as well as the print on it. You can also put a sign out to inform shoppers that you don't take bills over $20.

As the weather warms up, yard sales become a popular way to declutter and engage with folks in your community, just be safe when doing so.

Scam of the Week generally runs every Tuesday. Readers are welcome to contact reporter Jake Hutchison to report scams and potential scams they have come in contact with by calling 828-1329 or via email at jhutchison@ chicoer.com.

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