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Cheque overpayment scams

What is a cheque overpayment scam?

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.

Warning signs

  • Somebody makes an offer to buy something you have for sale and wishes to pay more than the agreed price.
  • You are sent a cheque in excess of the agreed price and asked to send the balance to a specific bank account or through a wire transfer.

Protect yourself against cheque overpayment scams

As well as following these specific tips, find out how to protect yourself from all sorts of other scams.

Do your homework

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.

Report them

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.

Share your story with friends, family and colleagues to help protect them from this type of scam.


What to do if you've been scammed; Scams & the law; Report a scam.

Similar scams:

You are promised huge rewards if you help someone transfer money out of their country by paying fees or giving them your bank account details.

You are asked to send money upfront for a product or ‘reward’. You will end up with something much less than you expected, or nothing at all.

If you agree to transfer money for someone you don’t know, you let scammers use your bank account to ‘launder’ their dirty money. This puts you and your money in the firing line.

Online auctions can be rigged by scammers or used to target you for a scam outside of the auction site. You could end up with a dud product or nothing at all for your money.

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