Recently, increasing numbers of people have been hurt financially by a scam in which they receive cashiers checks or money orders for over the amount they are expecting. Here are the basics of how the scam works:
- You advertise something for sale on the Internet, or in classified ads, or elsewhere
- Someone responds and says they will buy it, and sends you a cashiers check or money order, but for too much.
- You cash the check. It clears, so you think it is fine. You send back the overage (usually by wire), drawn from the balance in your account.
- The check is discovered to be counterfeit, and is deducted back out of your account. The buyer never picks up the merchandise.
The scammer is never interested in meeting you to take what you had for sale. He might not even live in the same country (many of these scams originate in Nigeria). All he cares about is getting you to send him the change. He may even make the deal sound better by offering to pay more than you asked by doing this favor of sending him change. Don't fall for it! If you deposit a counterfeit check or money order, you do not get to keep the money you got when you cashed it.
There are countless variations on this scam, including e-mails that tell you you won a contest or that some dignitary needs help moving funds out of his country. So be suspicious of anything that requires you to send money back to someone you don't know.