If you are selling something over the internet or through the classifieds, you may be targeted by a cheque overpayment scam. You might receive an offer from a potential buyer (often quite generous) and accept it. The scammer then sends you a cheque, but the cheque is for more money than the agreed price.
The scammer will invent an excuse for the overpayment. For example, the scammer might tell you that the extra money is meant to cover the fees of an agent or extra shipping costs. The scammer might just say that it was a mistake they made when they wrote the cheque.
The scammer will then ask you to refund the excess amount—usually through an online banking transfer or a wire transfer (such as Western Union). The scammer is hoping that you will do this before you discover that their cheque has bounced. You will have lost the money you paid into their account, and if you have already sent the item you were selling, you will lose this as well. At the very least, the scammer will have wasted your time and prevented you from accepting any legitimate offers.
If you have been sent a cheque for more money than you agreed on DO NOT agree to repay the difference before the cheque has been cleared by your bank. Your best option is to refuse to deal with these cheques at all. Send the cheque back and ask them to send you a cheque for the agreed amount.
Even if the excuse given sounds realistic, be very wary of requests to refund the excess money by instant means like internet banking or wire transfers. Look closely at the cheque they sent—is it from a bank that you recognise and how long will it take to clear?
Don’t let excuses that sound legitimate and realistic distract you—send the incorrect cheque back and ask for another one.
If you think the reasons for the overpayment may be genuine but you cannot send the incorrect cheque back (for example, if you have already deposited it), make sure that the cheque has been cleared by your bank or credit union before returning the extra amount.
If you think you have seen a cheque overpayment scam, report a scam to SCAMwatch. If you have sent any money, you should also contact your bank or credit union immediately to see if they can halt the payment.
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