By Sabrina Karl
As sure as the sun rises, fraudsters will always try to separate people from their money. Bank accounts are particularly susceptible since they don’t carry the maximum liability protection that credit cards do. But knowing the most common scams can help you keep your account — and your money — safe.
Various agencies accept and track consumer fraud complaints, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Better Business Bureau. In addition, many states also have their own consumer protection department.
From the millions of complaints received by these agencies, we know what the most commonly reported scams are, and one of these is the check overpayment scheme.
The scam targets those who are selling something via Craigslist, the classifieds, or another public avenue. The seller will get an offer, sometimes a generous one, from someone who appears very motivated to secure the deal and move the transaction quickly along.
After reaching an agreement, the buyer will later tell the seller some reason why their check will be for more than the purchase amount. They may say it was an error, or that the extra funds will cover fees they’ll incur from an agent or shipping representative. They then request that, after you deposit their check, you wire the surplus to a certain account or Western Union location.
The scam is that the check they’re providing will bounce, as it is counterfeit or forged. Your bank may not catch it immediately, but once they do, you will be out the full amount, and perhaps also your sale item if you shipped it.
Any check overpayment with a request to return the difference is a red flag, and you should abruptly end the transaction. In addition, it’s recommended you report the experience to all of the agencies above.