Businesses and consumers can be targets of overpayment scams. Those who were paid more money than they are asking for a product or service should be wary.
- A seller is offered more than the asking price of an item or service.
- The seller is asked to forward a portion of the money received back to the sender or to a third party to pay for shipping or other services.
- The name on the check does not match the name of the company or person the consumer is dealing with.
- E-mail correspondence has several misspellings and obvious grammar mistakes; it may appear to be from someone outside of the country.
Business Overpayment Scam: Businesses are contacted, usually though an e-mail, by a buyer often from another country. Only after setting up the details of their purchase does the scam appear: The buyer asks the business to help make their purchase easier. The buyer says they'll overpay for the product or service and asks the business to forward the extra money to another business or person to handle shipping or another service. The scam artists uses fake or stolen checks or stolen credit card numbers. Businesses discover, usually after they've transferred funds to the scam artist, that the money never comes or the money arrives but is stolen from another person or business' account. This can put a freeze on the business' account and requires the business to pay back the money to the rightful owner, including the funds sent to the scam artist.
Consumer Overpayment Scam: A consumer selling an item online or in a classified is contacted by an interested buyer. The scam appears in the same way as the business version: The buyer asks the seller to help make their purchase easier. The buyer says they'll overpay for the product or service and asks the seller to forward the extra money to a business or person to handle shipping or another service. The buyer uses fake or stolen checks. The seller discovers, usually after they've transferred funds to the scam artist, that the money never comes or the money arrives but is stolen from another person or business' account. This puts a freeze on the seller's account and requires them to pay back the money to the rightful owner; including the funds sent to the scam artist.
- Never forward money for another party. Refuse to forward funds to a third party for shipping or other reasons. The buyer can work with the third party directly.
BBB Tips for Consumers Selling through Classifieds:
- Deal locally. Especially when selling through online and offline classifieds. This will also avoid confusion over pickup, shipping or other costs.
- Only accept cash payments. Personal, business and cashiers checks can be fraudulent and hard to verify; a bank confirming "availability" of funds is not good enough.
- Check references when looking for a renter through classifieds. Interview the renter; ask for proof of employment and check references. Make sure and provide a lease or written agreement so all details are understood.
- Take precautions to protect yourself. Since many online and classifieds transactions are completed in person—such as a direct cash/merchandise exchange—always meet in a public place and don't go alone. If a local buyer or seller is unwilling to complete the transaction in person, it may be a warning sign.
If contacted by an overpayment scam:
- Report it to the state Attorney General's office.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
- If contacted by internet or e-mail, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
- If the phony check was drawn on a federally insured financial institution contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at 877-275-3342 or www.fdic.gov.
- If the phony check was drawn on a foreign bank, contact the United States Secret Service by visiting www.secretservice.gov.