Overpayment Scams

What are Overpayment Scams?

Overpayment scams begin when you sell an item online--a car, computer, or other relatively expensive item. A scammer will see your ad and contact you, offering to pay more than your item's listed price (which they will explain away by telling you the extra sum will cover shipping fees). They send the sum to you in the form of a money order and request that you send them the difference between the items actual price and the price they write on the money order in cash.

The money order the scammer sends you will look real--and it may be. However, the money orders have been stolen from a bank or other financial institution and are not authorized as legitimate. A few days after you deposit one into your account, your bank will call to tell you that it did not clear because it was a fraud. By that time, you will have lost not only the cash you sent but the item you tried to sell--and you may also be faced with bank fees for the attempt to deposit a fraudulent money order.

Overpayment scams are possibly the most devious of Internet scams--and can be difficult to recognize until your money is gone and it's too late.

Concerns for Parents

  • While children may stumble across scam websites or emails, scammers aren't going to target your kids. Why not? Because your children aren't old enough to use credit cards or have more than a few hundred dollars to their names at best. It's those of credit card-holding age--namely YOU and possibly older teens--who should be concerned!

How Can I Stay Safe?

  • Never sell an item to anyone who offers to pay you more than your asking--no matter how tempting the offer may be. The odds that you are dealing with an honest person in such a situation are slim to none.
  • Familiarize yourself with the current scams. There are many sites (such as Fakechecks.org) and organizations aimed to educate people on the current scam techniques.

Where Can I Learn More?

Internet Fraud

Read this article from About.com.

Read this article from the Federal Trade Commission about check overpayment scams.