What is a check overpayment scam?
A "check overpayment scam," also called a "fake check scam," starts with a person who wants to hire you short-term for a service you offer, such as a personal assistant, babysitting, or tutoring. They want to pay you in advance in a lump sum, typically $2,000-$4,000. They send you a cashier's check that is more than what was agreed, usually by several hundred dollars. They have a good story to explain why they needed to send you more (view Examples of scam emails sent to BPN). The scammer tells you to deposit the check in your own bank account, and when it clears, they will "trust" you to send them (or someone else) the excess. They may ask you to wire the money directly, or send bitcoin, or send a prepaid Visa card. Their check has a real bank's name and routing number on it, usually in another state, so your bank makes the funds available to you after a couple of days, and you think it is safe to send the excess. However it will take up to 2 weeks for your bank to hear back from the other bank that the check is fake. By that time you have already sent the scammer several hundred dollars of your own money.
Warning signs that it's a scam:
- Someone wants to hire you for a few weeks only.
- They want to pay you the entire sum in advance.
- They are not able to meet with you in person.
- They send you a check for more than the agreed-upon amount.
What to do if you are scammed:
Stop corresponding with them immediately. Ignore further emails and texts. You can report the theft (see instructions on the FCC website), but it's unlikely you'll get your money back since the scammer will have already collected the funds by the time you realize it was a scam. These scams are operated from remote locations, often overseas, and are virtually impossible to trace or prosecute.
Best way to avoid these scams:
- Do not make any agreements with people who do not live locally and can't meet with you in person.
- Never send money to anyone who first contacted you by email or text.
For more information, see: How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams (Federal Trade Commission)