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SUNRISE BEACH – Buying and selling personal property privately, such as furniture, clothes and cars, is commonplace in today’s world with websites such as Craigslist.

Even Facebook now allows users to post items for sale on its “Marketplace” section.

One family is now out thousands of dollars after they said one transaction went wrong.

The family reached out to KOMU 8 News because they felt cheated after nearly two years of trying to get their money back.

The Target 8 team looked into the case and sought out advice to help protect people when buying and selling personal property.

One family’s experience

Jerry Gumpenberger, 80-year-old resident of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, said she saw the potential repercussions of personal transactions first-hand.

In March of 2015, her son, Mike Gumpenberger, put their family tractor up for sale for $5,000 through a radio advertisement program.

The family said the buyer gave them a check with the word “hold” written on the front.

According to the Gumpenbergers, the buyer said he would pay them fully for the tractor when he had the money in two weeks.

That day the Gumpenbergers helped the buyer load the tractor onto his trailer.

Jerry Gumpenberger took pictures showing the transfer occurred and also has images of the buyer driving down their driveway.

A couple weeks later the family met him in a Walmart parking lot to exchange the hold check for cash per the buyer’s request.

The Gumpenbergers said they were handed an envelope that was taped closed and said the buyer quickly sped from the scene.

The envelope contained a check for only $500 that stated "paid in full" for the tractor, which was a 10th of the family’s asking price.

"It was terrible, she started crying and all of that, and I didn't know what to do except go after him," Mike Gumpenberger said.

When the family was unable to track the buyer down, they went to the police.

In April 2015, the Eldon Police Department filed a report outlining the incident and described it as a stealing or conspiracy case.

The report stated neither the Gumpenbergers nor the police could get in touch with the buyer.

"I couldn't believe it; people like that would take something from other people when they knew it should be for $5,000," Jerry Gumpenberger said.

The Missouri Attorney General's office weighs in

The Gumpenberger’s experience is very common, according to Joe Bindbeutel, Chief Counsel of the Consumer Protection Division.

However, he said buyers and sellers are capable of protecting themselves.

"The tips we give consumers when they are using things like Craigslist, or frankly a radio station that just says 'so and so has a tractor for sale, it's $5,000 and it's a good deal. Come on by here's a phone number.' That radio station is not standing behind that transaction,” Bindbeutel said. “It's a transaction between buyer and seller."

Bindbeutel offered many tips to prevent situations similar to the Gumpenberger’s.

One of them was to make transactions at a bank, where people can ensure the payment is of value.

Bindbeutel broke down the differences between online transaction sites.

"If you're on Ebay, follow the directions for Ebay, use a credit card to use Paypal, that is a very secure process," Bindbeutel said. "If someone does not deliver the good, you don't have the good, but you can almost always get your money back from Paypal or from your credit card if you make a claim of fraud against your credit card company." 

Bindbeutel mentioned other sites are not as reliable. 

"If you're on the Craigslist type of site it's a little more wild wild west," Bindbeutel said. "All they're doing is saying there's an item for sale and putting a buyer and seller together. They're not standing behind the integrity of the two people in the transaction, so you have to be much, much more careful."

Bindbeutel recommended that both the buyer and seller verify they are getting what they have agreed to. 

"You have to confirm you have received that value before you release your good. If you're the buyer be sure the item is what it professes to be on the advertisement and it's in the condition. Make a good inspection before you consummate any sale."

"If you think you were shorted, if you think you were defrauded, if you think you were scammed, please call the Attorney General's office," Bindbeutel said.

To see a video of Bindbeutel's tips see below. 


Caught up in the legal system

According to court records on the Gumpenberger’s case, police arrested the buyer for theft of property valued at more than $500, and he bonded out.

The family said they have been to nearly a dozen court hearings and are still waiting to receive compensation for the rest of the deal.

The family said since they have so much evidence, including a copy of the original $5,000 hold check, pictures of the buyer taking the tractor and the second check with $500 marked paid in full, they thought their case would be solved quickly.

However according to the family, hearings were postponed on multiple occasions.

KOMU 8 News attended the most recent hearing, and the judge moved the case to a lower court. The defendant's attorney said she would not comment on any of the specific claims, but she said this should be a civil matter and not a criminal case.

Searching for closure

In the family’s case, Jerry Gumpenberger could spend the money and time on her loved one’s health care needs because her husband was diagnosed with cancer just a few months ago.

"If we had that money now we could pay all our medical bills off since he has cancer and take care of all that and then we could be caught up," Jerry Gumpenberger said.

Her son said they think about this every day and need a resolution soon.

"So we can get on with this and get over this, and we can get on with our lives and be happy,” Mike Gumpenberger said.