Check or Cheque Overpayment Scams

Question: My son was selling a table on Craigslist for $1000. The man that agreed to buy it sent him a check for $2700. My son texted this man to let him know he received his check but it was more than the amount that he was selling the table for. The man said his secretary accidentally paid for the shipping all on one check. We asked him why he would pay $1,700 for shipping. He had no answer. Thankfully my son didn't cash the check because of how suspicious everything seemed.

Check or Cheque Overpayment Scams


Your son almost got swindled by scammers using the "Check Overpayment" scam.

What is the Check or Cheque Overpayment Scam?
This involves scammers sending a fake check or cheque and telling the recipients to deposit it, keep part of the amount for their own compensation or payment, and then wire the rest back for one reason or another.

This is why recipients of overpaid checks or cheques from strangers who are asked to cash them and wire the money back to the strangers or issuers, are asked not do so. Or else, they will have to pay back the money that was spent and sent, and the cost of processing the fake checks when they bounce. Or, may even get arrested for taking part in a scam or fraudulent activity they were unaware of.

Remember, your bank may learn after you withdraw or wire the money from your account that the check you were given was fraudulent. At this time the check will be returned to the bank unpaid and the full amount of the check will be deducted from your account. Because bank customers are generally responsible for the checks they deposit, the victims of these scams are left to repay the bank the money they withdrew against the bad check.

The scam usually works because, under federal law, banks make the funds you deposit available quickly – usually within one to five days, depending on the type of check. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it's a cashier's check. It can take weeks for the forgery to be discovered and the check to be returned.

Persons who have been tricked by the check scam are asked to contact their banks immediately for help before the banks discover the scam first and think they are involved.

The FTC offers the following tips for avoiding Check Overpayment 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.
  • Resist pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good when the check clears.
  • 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.
  • Consider an alternative method of payment, such as an escrow service or online payment service. If the buyer wants to use a service you have not heard of, be sure to check it out to be sure it is reliable – check its website, call its customer service hotline, and read its terms of the agreement and privacy policy. If you do not feel comfortable with the service, do not use it.
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  • October 28, 2017 at 7:34 AM by an anonymous user from: Akron, Ohio, United States

    We are currently determining that we are in the middle of a scam. My husband put a picture of a grandfather clock online. Very quickly someone texted and even asked him to take the post down. He sent a check and stated that he will pay his delivery driver $1,000.00 to transport it to New York. We are suspicious and just now interrupting the process. This has been sight unseen, no names were given, no address. And he's been so "agreeable" to come at our convenience, but he wants to come right away. Thanks for your heads up. We are educated now and will go to our bank today.

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Check or Cheque Overpayment Scams