The overpayment scam is the basis for many scams including phony mystery shopper scams about which I have written many times. Another example of the overpayment scam occurred recently when a British Columbia wedding photographer was scammed out of $4,600 through this scam. The scam began when the photographer was contacted by someone seeking to hire the photographer to take pictures at his daughter’s wedding. The photographer, Esther Moerman asked for a $700 deposit, but ended up receiving a check in the amount of $5,500. When Moerman reported to the scammer that the amount sent was incorrect, the scammer told Moerman that it was an accounting error and that the excess funds were supposed to pay for catering. The scammer then asked Moerman to wire the money to the caterer, which Moerman did. As you can guess, the scammers check was counterfeit and bounced even though Moerman’s bank initially gave her provisional credit which led her to believe that the check was valid. Once the check was found to be counterfeit, the provisional credit was removed from Moerman’s account, however, the money she wired to the phony caterer from her account was lost forever.
This is just another variation on the scam whereby the victim, for whatever purposes receives a check in excess of the amount owed to the victim and asks the victim to send back the difference. There are a number of tell tale signs to look for and steps to take to avoid this type of scam. First, you need to remember that although a check may appear to have been cleared by your bank after a few days, all you are really getting is “provisional credit” and when the counterfeit check eventually bounces, the credit is taken back from your account and you are left having sent your own money to the scammer. The prudent thing to do when being paid by a check is to wait until the check has fully cleared before you can feel confident that the funds actually are in your account. This may take a few weeks. Most importantly, never accept a check for more than what is owed you and send the difference back. It is always a scam. Asking you to wire money from your account is also something about which you should be skeptical because once money is wired, it is impossible to get it back.
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