Check overpayment scam – this happened to us

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When my son was moving back home from state college (a little early since he decided it just wasn’t for him), he still had three months remaining on his lease.  Since he didn’t want to be out the money, he decided to advertise his room on a college room rental website.   The remainder of his rent for three months would be $1,500.

A few days after placing the ad, he mentioned to me that someone was interested.  I can’t remember the details exactly, but it kind of sounded like a strange arrangement.  My son never said anything else about it, so I assumed that nothing was happening with it.

Check-overpayment-scam
A few weeks later, a Fed Ex envelope addressed to my son showed up on our doorstep. Normally I don’t look through his mail, but something about the return address alerted my “mommy protective senses”.  I opened the package and there was a very official looking bank check. Nothing else enclosed but a check with a bank name.  The check was written out for $2,200.

I approached my son and told him about the check and he confirmed that he had been emailing back and forth with some guy (with broken english) and the guy wanted to rent the room.  He also mentioned that the check should have been written for $1,500.

The light bulb went off in my head right away. I remembered hearing about these types of scams before – where a check is written for a larger amount than it is supposed to be, and the crook wants the victim to send the extra cash back to them.  I knew something was terribly wrong.  I explained the whole scam to my son, and he emailed the guy (though I wanted to just leave it be).  My son then began to tell me about the previous emails, where the guy said, “I trust you”, “God Bless you”, and other terms that the online scammers frequently use.

dollars
Next thing I know, the phone rang and our caller ID showed a REALLY strange phone number (actually it wasn’t even a number).  I answered, and a man with very poor English was livid, saying, “I sent you a check for too much – you pay me back!!”.  I calmly explained that we were not cashing the check and “his money” is all still there.  He continued yelling at me – “YOU SEND ME MY MONEY!!”.  He called several times over the next couple of days, getting more and more irate.  Finally he said that he has friends in the area and that he was sending them to our house on Tuesday.   Gee, I was actually hoping he could send his friends on Monday, when my Police Officer husband would be home 🙂

All joking aside, this was very scary.  I handed the check and Fed Ex package to my husband to take to work so he could pass it along to investigations.  Nothing ever came of it, as it is hard to track something with very little info.  These scammers know exactly what they are doing.

The moral of the story:  Never, EVER, send someone the “extra” money back if you are involved in a sale or deal like this.  The scam is a popular one, and I never dreamed it would happen to us.  Of course, if I had seen the emails, I would have known from the get-go that it was a scam. Unfortunately, my son wasn’t familiar with this type of scam.  I am just SO glad that I intercepted the Fed Ex package!

The scam works like this:  The “Buyer/renter” sends a check for an amount more than agreed upon.  You deposit the check, and send the overpayment amount back to the “buyer/renter” right away.  Their check bounces at your bank and you have lost that money forever.  This can also happen with a wire transfer.  Also beware when the scammer/buyer is really pushy and everything is URGENT.

There are all kinds of scams out there, and if your gut feeling tells you that something is wrong, it probably is. Make sure you don’t fall for this check overpayment scam!

 

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About Author

Jennifer Regan is the owner/editor-in-chief of Eighty MPH Mom, a family-friendly blog. She is active in Brand Ambassadorships and campaigns, and is active in social media, helping brands promote!

14 Comments

  1. Rosanne Morrison on

    I get dozen of these foreign scam e-mails a day. I can’t believe they prey on college students this way and I’ll bet a few of them fall for it. I watch a show on lottery winners and how many succumb to every sob story they hear so it would not surprise me if someone did sent the $1,000. Than goodness you were on the ball.

  2. Happened to my future son in law when he was selling some drums. (it happens in personal sales too).

    Not sure exactly what happened as they showed the bank the check and he was told the BANK should have been aware of this, as they could have tracked that this was an obsolete account. Might be a good idea ALWAYS to see if the bank clears the check first on all transactions with strangers?

    My husband and I are always so incredulous with these and online scams…if these people put time into a REAL job, they’d make money and preserve their integrity as well. Shady sob’s but geez, they obviously have some street and money smarts.

    • I agree – waiting for the check to clear is a great idea. These scammers are so pushy though and everything is so URGENT that people fall for it. Sad but true.

      I agree, if they would get jobs they could make money. HUH!

  3. eeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hate this whole thing ! it’s all over craigslist because someone tried it with us when we were selling furniture and they wanted to pay with a check ….and pick it up the same day and i found out that the check usually bounces long after they are gone with your stuff! I can’t believe that there are people who scam innocents like that!

    • I know! I was really surprised too. You hear about these things, but I never thought it would happen to us. Well, if it had been me dealing with the guy, the red flags would have gone up immediately, but they are so sly, you never know! I am scared of using Craig’s List these days because of this.

  4. I’ve almost been a victim of a scam too, its not fun. I had someone call saying I had taken out a payday loan and never paid it back so unless I paid the loan and late fee, I was going to be arrested the next day.

  5. Oh wow, I can definitely see how SCARY that would be! Thankfully I was brought up by paranoid parents and being a frequent user of the interwebs, I have quite the Bull$^$ meter. But still, I can’t imagine someone calling and basically harassing you!

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with everyone; hopefully this will prevent someone from being taken advantage of in the future!

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