Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland (BBB) is warning consumers to watch for overpayment scams when advertising merchandise for sale online. A Wellington, Ohio woman told BBB her fiance lost $1,800 after he posted an ad on Craigslist to sell tires. He was contacted by a buyer who agreed to purchase the tires for $300 provided he first remove his Craigslist ad. The female at first offered to pay cash and pick up the tires personally, but later said she would send a check and arrange for a mover to get the tires. When the check arrived, it was for $1,800 - $1,500 more than the purchase price. The seller was instructed to wire transfer the overpayment to a Lawrenceville, Georgia, address. Even though he waited two days for the check to "clear" before sending the $1,500 refund, his bank later notified him that the check was counterfeit and he needed to reimburse the bank for the funds that were withdrawn. He was stuck with an overdrawn bank account and an expensive lesson.
Don’t assume a check - or cashier’s check - is legitimate just because your bank makes the funds available for you to withdraw. A deposited check can take several days or more to clear. Under federal law, banks must make funds from certain deposited checks available one business day after the deposit but it could take weeks or months for the check to be discovered to be counterfeit.
In order to avoid these situations, BBB cautions consumers to avoid:
The Invisible Buyer - Never deal with a person who communicates only by text or e-mail and will not talk to you on the phone. Get as much information from the seller as possible, including a name and phone number. While you cannot always trust if those are real, you can write down the license plate number of their car if the transaction will take place in person.
Foreign Bodies - Be wary of individuals claiming to be overseas. In many different types of scams, con artists claim to be living abroad or on military deployment to avoid in person contact. Consider this a red flag.
Stranger Danger - Never give personal information including credit card numbers, social security numbers, or your address to a stranger.
The “Oops” Payment - Never accept a check for more than the purchase price of a product or service, no matter how tempting. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check and do not send the merchandise. And never wire money to strangers. Remember, once you’ve sent it, it’s gone.
If you have fallen victim to an overpayment scam, you can file a complaint with BBB (bbb.org/cleveland) or Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov). Also post a report at BBB’s Scam Tracker site (bbb.org/scamtracker).