Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > September 2015 > Fake Check Scams Target Ohioans

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

Fake Check Scams Target Ohioans

Imagine selling an item online and then receiving a check for more than the agreed price. Would you deposit the check into your bank account and send the excess money back to the buyer? If so, beware! Scammers are using variations of the “fake check scam” to trick consumers into sending money using wire-transferring services and prepaid money cards.   
How the Scam Works
A scammer poses as an interested buyer for a product that a potential victim advertises online. After expressing interest, the scammer sends a legitimate-looking check for more than the agreed-upon price of the product. For example, the scammer may send a check for $2,000 more than the selling price and say the remainder should be used to pay a “shipping agent.” The scammer asks the victim to deposit the check and buy a prepaid money card or use a wire-transferring service to send the difference to the “agent.”    
In reality, the check is counterfeit, and the funds will not clear the bank even if the bank provides the victim with temporary access to those funds. Later, after the victim sends money to the “agent,” the bank informs the victim that the check was fraudulent and that no money was deposited into the victim’s bank account. Any money sent using a wire-transferring service or prepaid money card will be lost. In some cases, the bank may also charge a fee for depositing a bad check or for overdrawing an account.
Recently, a Pickaway County consumer reported being contacted by a potential “buyer” for his $1,000 telescope advertised online. The “buyer” planned to send a certified check for $3,000 and instructed the potential victim to deposit the money and withdraw $2,000 to send to “movers.” Fortunately, the consumer reported this scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office before losing any money.
Tips to Avoid Scams
If you post items for sale online, watch for signs of a scam, including:
  • Buyers who say they can only pay by personal or cashier’s check.
  • Buyers who send you a check for more than the asking price.
  • Pressure to return any overpayment immediately.
  • Requests for wire-transfers, money orders, or prepaid money cards. These are the preferred methods of payment for scammers, because they are nonrefundable and difficult to trace.
  • Buyers who want the products or excess money to be sent to someone else.
Beware of other variations of the fake check scam, including those based on a phony mystery shopper assignment, fake job opportunity, or fraudulent sweepstakes. In these scenarios, victims may be asked to send money to “evaluate their local wire-transferring service” or to “cover fees associated with their winnings.” In reality, any money sent will likely be lost.
If you suspect a scam or unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting