'Free Piano?' Be careful or you’ll be the one who gets played

Photo (c) Francesco Carta Fotografo - Getty Images

The free piano scam is hitting sour notes with its victims

Got a budding Beethoven in your house? If you do, scammers may be playing a tune too good to be true to rob you of hundreds of dollars.

A “free piano” scam is making the rounds and making piano sellers crazy. An employee of Miller Piano Specialists in Nashville recently saw an ad for a “Free Yamaha Baby Grand Piano” on Craigslist. Curious, he climbed into the rabbit hole with both feet, but soon figured out that this was a scam. 

The free Yamaha grand piano scam is a pervasive issue – one not isolated to just Miller, either. Family Piano in Niles, Ill., said it’s seen it, too. So has the Kentucky Music Teachers Association, as has Brown University

The scam unfolds like this according to Miller Specialists: The scammer claims to be giving away a Yamaha grand piano that belonged to their deceased father, husband, or wife, and asks the interested party to contact a moving company for delivery.

Payment is then requested via cell phone or Cash app for the shipping fee, which varies based on the option selected. However, the piano never arrives, and the website of the moving company is fake. 

One consumer who wrote about her experience on Reddit said the sincerity of the pitch was very convincing. In their case, a “Dr. Mary” said they were only looking for someone who was a lover of music to take it from them.

They wanted the piano to be used to share with friends and family the joys of music,” the target wrote on Reddit.

“The Yamaha G2 baby grand used to be owned and played by my husband who is now deceased and it was last tuned early February last year before he passed, I'm almost done moving my properties to Texas and I don't think my husband will be happy if I sell his piano, [but] at the same time I'm not happy seeing it around because of less storage, So I'm hoping to give it out to someone who is a passionate lover of the instrument.”

Even a 'real' free piano isn’t a good deal, it seems

Scams are one thing, but buying another person’s problems is another. Family Piano’s Max Filkins says the truth of the matter is that trying to score a “free” piano runs a very high risk of ending up with an inferior instrument that must be repaired and maintained to play well.

“Even worse, you could end up with an unrepairable, untunable piano that you will need to dispose of,” he said.

If your inner Herbie Hancock really needs to be massaged, Filkins says there are two things you should be aware of.

The first being is that most people who are giving away a piano often don’t know squat about the instrument.

“This may seem like a no-brainer, but the implications of this mean they very likely cannot provide you with information about how the piano plays, feels, and sounds, if it has soundboard cracks, if it can even still be tuned, the serial number, the model, etc.,” he said.

“They might have some additional information for you or might be willing to send you more pictures, but oftentimes this runs into the second problem.”

And that second problem is this:

“Most posters are impatient and just want the piano gone as soon as possible. Another no-brainer, as they will mostly feel since they are offering this piano for free, they shouldn’t have to ‘work’ with you to win you over on the piano and will have little patience for your questions,” he warned.

One of the most common phrases Filkins sees on free piano social media posts is that the person needs to get rid of the instrument ASAP. “This puts a ton of pressure on you to immediately come out to see the piano,” he said.

“The poster’s assumption is that since you came out, you will be picking it up immediately right then and there. This makes additional recommended actions like a professional pick-up or a visit with a piano technician more difficult since the assumption is that you will pick up the piano immediately with few questions asked.”

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