Fake piano giveaways are too good to be true 

Pianos can sound sweet to the ear, but to scammers, they can be music for their wallets. Fraud.org has recently received reports of criminal fraudsters reaching out to their targets in a number of convincing ways, leading to distressing losses and the crowding out legitimate offers.  

Generally, the scheme involves a fraudulent advertisement or solicitation claiming to be giving away an acoustic piano (often expensive grands and baby grands). The scammers usually tell their targets that they are moving and need to get rid of the instrument, and all the victim needs to do is pay shipping or insurance costs for the delivery. Because the delivery and/or insurance fees are typically a fraction of the cost of buying a piano outright, it is easy for the target to excuse the charge, which can be thousands of dollars. In the end, the piano is never delivered and the fraudsters disappear with the victim’s cash. 

One Californian reported to Fraud.org that they paid just under $1,500 to scammers online who were offering a piano. The victim realized the scheme was bogus once the criminals kept coming up with excuses for why they couldn’t deliver the instrument and needed more money. Making the situation worse was the fact that the individual sent the money over Zelle, a platform that makes it nearly impossible to recover your funds, even in the event of fraud. 

If someone’s offering to give away their piano, keep the following in mind: 

  • Try to see the piano in person. It’s a red flag if the donor/seller isn’t local as most individuals won’t go through the trouble of shipping an instrument out of state. Knowing when the instrument was last tuned, if there’s any damage to the keys, strings, or pedals, and other similar info is also important before purchasing any acoustic keyboard.  
  • Ask for more information. If they can’t provide details on where the piano is currently, its physical condition, by what date the donor needs the instrument gone, or a geographic range they can deliver to, reconsider sending any money. 
  • Do a reverse image search. Many times scammers will use images of pianos they got from somewhere else online, since they don’t actually have an instrument themselves. Doing a reverse image search of the pictures they’re listing may show that the photos are not their own. If this is the case, you shouldn’t go through with the offer. 
  • Verify their identity. Fraudsters can impersonate your friends and loved ones on social media. If someone you know is claiming to give away a piano for free, double check with them through another channel (like a phone call, in person visit, or text message). 
  • Know the refund options around how you pay. Scammers will typically ask for payment through insecure methods that offer little-to-no recourse if you’re defrauded (think cash, gift cards, and payment apps like Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App). Scrutinize the offer carefully before using one of these payment methods, and avoid using them at all if possible. Instead, look for digital marketplaces that offer refund and fraud protections when you pay through their official channels. 
  • If it’s too good to be true, reconsider. It’s pretty rare that someone will give away an expensive instrument that’s in good condition, even if you pay for the shipping.