Overpayment & Cheque Scam

Fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated in the ways they try to scam innocent victims out of hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Email and other forms of electronic communication tools have become an essential part of our lives, so it's only natural that criminals have found creative ways to execute their scams through electronic channels.

It is important you stay educated on some of the latest scams so that you don't become another statistic. The most useful tool you can use in identifying these scams is your instincts - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Keep an eye out for the some of the ways scammers are targeting new victims.
  • You receive an email stating you have won a lottery or sweepstakes requiring you to pay a fee before collecting your prize.
  • You receive a phone call that you are promised a percentage for transferring funds to your account for "safekeeping," often from outside the country.
  • You place an ad selling something and receive a response offering to send more money than you are asking for and then a request to return the overpayment.
  • You are asked to deposit a cheque and then forward the funds via wire transfer or money order, keeping a portion of the cheque in payment for your help.

In order to avoid overpayment scams, remember the following general words of advice:

  • Know who you are dealing with; independently confirm your buyer's name, street address, and telephone number
  • Never accept a cheque for more than your selling price
  • 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
  • Resist pressure to "act now." If the buyer's offer is good now, it should be good when the cheque clears; if you accept payment by cheque, ask for a cheque drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the cheque is legitimate. If the buyer wants to use a service you have not heard of, be sure to check it out to ensure it is reliable. Check its website, call its customer service hotline, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. If you do not feel comfortable with the service, do not use it.

Usually, the cheque sent to you won't be drawn on an account in the name of the person or company that you have been dealing with. These cheques are counterfeit or stolen and altered. They will be returned to your account unpaid and the full amount will be deducted from your account. Fraudulent cheques can be returned unpaid weeks or even months after deposit. Other payment items such as money orders or travelerís cheques can also be used for fraud.