Overpayment Scams

This type of scam occurs when an individual is actually owed money for performing a job such as a “secret shopper” or for payment of goods sold on Kijiji® or eBay® websites. The individual receives payment via a counterfeit corporate or personal cheque in an amount in excess of the amount originally agreed to in the transaction. They are then asked to deposit the cheque and return the excess funds back to the originator by wire transfer.

Scenario: You sell something on an online auction site. The buyer tells you that he will send a cheque in the mail. It will be for more than the price and you are asked to send the excess back by wire transfer.

Scam: The cheque is a counterfeit of a legitimate company so it clears the bank and you wire the excess. Months later, the legitimate company discovers the fake cheque and notifies your bank. You are out the value of the cheque plus the bank fees and you shipped the criminal your auction item too.

In order to avoid overpayment scams, remember the following general words of advice:

  • Know who you are dealing with; independently confirm your buyer's name, street address, and telephone number
  • Never accept a cheque for more than your selling price
  • 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
  • Resist pressure to “act now.”  If the buyer's offer is good now, it should be good when the cheque clears; if you accept payment by cheque, ask for a cheque drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the cheque is legitimate. If the buyer wants to use a service you have not heard of, be sure to check it out to ensure it is reliable. Check its website, call its customer service hotline, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. If you do not feel comfortable with the service, do not use it.