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BBB: In the market for a piano? Don't get played by scammers

Take a second look, don't fall for emotional stories and don't be pressured to pay quickly are some of the Better Business Bureau's tips to avoid big purchase scams.
TheatreSheridan - playing piano
Person playing a piano.

If you’re in the market for a piano, then you know that the instrument can cost a hefty price and is not easy (or cheap) to transport.

Scammers are targeting music lovers, businesses, schools, and churches with a new scam that claims to offer a piano donation for free, but phony moving and delivery fees and other “unexpected fees” may leave them out hundreds of dollars with no piano to play.

How the scam works

You receive an email or find a listing on social media from someone who claims they are trying to donate their piano. The person shares a little of their backstory and says their now deceased husband or wife was a music lover and wanted the piano to be given away to a family, a church, or another fellow music enthusiast.

The story pulls at your heartstrings, so you ask for more details. The individual states that the piano is of no cost, and better yet, it’s in impeccable condition! The only catch is that you must pay the shipping fees.

The shipping details have already been worked out with a moving company (how convenient!) When you hear from the moving company, you’re told that shipping the piano can cost hundreds of dollars, almost $2,000, depending on how soon you want the piano delivered. The moving company pressures you to respond quickly to choose a shipping plan and then notifies you that payment can only be provided through digital wallet apps, a bank cash deposit, or a wire transfer.

Furthermore, the moving company later shares that after further discussion with the seller, the new beneficiary of the piano (you) must settle the storage fee of the piano, which comes at an additional hefty fee.

If you proceed with the purchase, you’ll soon find out that the piano never existed, and you’ve just lost potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars to a scammer.

A consumer recently reported the following experience to BBB Scam Tracker: “We were contacted by a person named Jane…she wanted to give away her 2014 Sterling Baby Grand Piano because her husband was deceased, and he wanted it to be given to a family…the shipping company called [redacted]…tried to pressure us that it had to be paid today [and]…we had to pay via Venmo or CashApp.”

The victim then tried to contact the shipper to ask more questions, but the “shipper” would only use email and would not provide a copy of the insurance – and then disappeared after being shown a link to another BBB Scam Tracker report.

“They were trying to charge us $925 to transport…this price was the first red flag.”

How to avoid similar scams

Be wary of unsolicited emails offering something too good to be true

  • If you receive an email out of the blue offering you a free item that’s usually very expensive, take that as a red flag. Scammers will try to trick you into thinking they’re offering you a good deal. The item probably doesn’t exist, and you may still lose money paying phony shipping fees.

Take a second look at the email

Don’t get tricked by emotional stories

  • A common tactic used by scammers who want to steal your money is to play into your emotions. Don’t get fooled by scammers who share sad stories and ultimately tell you they need your money to fix their problem. Furthermore, if a scammer will only talk to you through email, take that as another warning sign.

Get familiar with the average price of the item you want

  • If you’re on the hunt for a rare or expensive item, research the average price of the item itself and what it would cost to ship it (whether that’s across the country or the globe). If you notice that you’re being offered an item for a price that is way too high or too low from the average, give that purchase a second thought.

Being pressured to pay quickly

  • Scammers will try to get you to pay quickly so you have less time to think and reconsider. If you feel pressured and uncomfortable, stop communicating with the scammer and don’t offer any payment.

Think twice before providing payment for something you didn’t initiate

  • Don’t provide payment to anyone you don’t know if you did not initiate the purchase. Scammers often require you to pay with digital wallet apps or wire transfers. Credit cards offer additional protection against scams and fraudulent charges but remember not to give out your financial information to strangers.

Check into moving companies on

  • If the shipping logistics of an item you purchased are pre-coordinated with a “moving company,” do your research before paying any “shipping fees.” Check with to see if the moving company exists. If the moving company has a website that seems fishy, look for warning signs and search for the business on BBB Scam Tracker.