The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers of a dangerous and growing scam called the “check overpayment” scam, now the fifth most common telemarketing fraud scheme and the fourth most common Internet scam ever reported. In this scam, the person you are doing business with sends you a check for more than the amount they owe you, and then instructs you to wire the balance back to them. Or, they send a check and tell you to deposit it, keep part of the amount for your own compensation, and then wire the rest back for one reason or another. The results are the same: the check eventually bounces, and you’re stuck, responsible for the full amount, including what you wired to the scammer.
The following is an email sent last week to a local heating and air conditioning company. Here, the scammer tries to get the company to accept his overpayment as compensation for helping him wire money to someone else. The emails were sent from an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Air conditioning service needed ASAP
I’m having a little problem with The Ex-owner of the house because I only paid 75% payment of the Property and he does not have the facility to accept credit card payment For me to balance him.
I just need you to bill my card for the sum of $6900 and help me forward $5200 to the initial owner has is balance payment of the house i just bought and you will be holding $1500 as deposit of your service.So once the funds hit your account you will be forwarding the $5200 to the initial owner via bank cash deposit once he receive the money he will make the keys available for the air conditioning maintenance to be done…okay?
I would have preferred to sort his payment by myself but I am presently in the hospital scheduled for surgery for my hearing impaired condition. I am willing to pay you a tip of $200 for your time if you could assist with this favor. Kindly get back with the grand total cost if this is okay by you.
Consider the following tips to avoid falling victim to this type of scam:
- Know who you’re dealing with – independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address, and telephone number.
- Never agree to wire back funds to a buyer — a legitimate buyer will not pressure you to do so, and you have limited recourse if there is a problem with a wire transfer.
- If you’re selling something over the Internet, say “no” to a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story.
- If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the check is legitimate.
- There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back.