Check overpayment scams occur when you receive a check for more that the amount you were expecting, and are asked to wire the excess back.
Often you are selling something online and you get a response from a prospective buyer who offers to pay with a cashier's check, personal or corporate check.
Then at the last minute, the buyer or their agent comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price.
You are asked to wire back the difference after you deposit the check.
The checks are counterfeits and if you deposit them, they will temporarily boost your bank balance.
When the check eventually bounces [which may take weeks], you are liable for the full amount.
These scams mainly target people selling expensive items online, classified ads or using auctions or perhaps taxes or fees for a foreign lottery win.
The reasons for the overpayment can vary from making a mistake writing the check out, extra money to cover the fees of an agent [accomplice], or fees for shipping to be paid to a shipping company [accomplice].
A variation is when you may have accepted a job online as a financial representative for an international company who wants you to process their local sales checks. When you deposit a check into your account, you are asked to wire the amount to the overseas company, less your commission for processing the check.
If you wire the money to the scammer, you will not only lose your money, you will lose any item you are selling as well.
Regardless of the reason, any check overpayment scam ends the same way – with a request for you to wire money back. Their goal is to receive the money from you, before you find out the check is counterfeit.
The FTC provides the following advise to avoid the check overpayment scams:
If you have been a victim of a check overpayment scam you should file a
complaint with the FTC at
For more information on buying or selling goods on Internet auction sites, see the FTC articles: consumer.ftc.gov.
Forward check overpayment scams can also be forwarded to email@example.com and your state Attorney General. You can find contact information for your state Attorney General at www.naag.org.