How Do Overpayment Scams Work?

Overpayment scams in the fraud field can take form in various ways. 

However, despite the mode of attack, the end result is the same – the victim is left with an overdrawn account, possibly blacklisted with banking institutions, responsible for overdrawn fees and funds, and facing charges for fraudulent checks. Two of the most common modes of attack are via bad checks for excessive funds, and often times via payment for services performed ‘working from home.’

From an early start individuals have been taught that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. In most cases, the infamous saying turns out to be extremely true.  Take for example the following cases, which are actual cases:

1. Prospect A received a check from Prospect B and was instructed to deposit the check into his account and keep $1,200 of the $5,500 the alleged check was worth.  Prospect A did not ask many questions. There was profit to be made – over a thousand dollars simply for depositing a check.  Prospect A went to the bank and deposited the check into his account.  He withdrew the funds.  $4,300 were given to Prospect B. Then, a few days later Prospect A’s bank contacts him stating that the check was fraudulent.  He now owed the bank $5,500. The bank manager advised Prospect A to return the funds immediately and to never set foot in his branch or any other bank branch. Prospect A was reported to the check verification companies and was blacklisted – unable to keep his checking account opened, or even open another account with a different banking institution. 

2. In a different case, a woman started working from home. She applied for a job with a data entry company.  She had been working for a week performing duties like creating documents, typing, forms, etc. At the completion of the work week, she was contacted by the alleged manager of the company.  The woman was advised she would be receiving a check for payment for her services so far.  She received a check in the mail for $2,400, however, her pay for the week was supposed to be $549.  At the time she received the check, she contacted the manager.  The manager told her to deposit the check to her account and keep what was due to her, and simply return the rest to him.  The woman saw herself in a weird situation; however, she went to the bank.  At the bank, she requested to open a new checking account, while using the check funds to open the account. The representative at the bank advised the woman that the funds would not be available for immediate withdrawal. The woman returned the next day and pulled $1,851 from the account. On the next business day, Monday, the bank contacted the woman and advised her they would be reporting her to law enforcement for having deposited a fraudulent check.    

Individuals should be cautious when it comes to situations like these. Overpayment in itself means you were overpaid, and whatever was overpaid to you, you have to give it back. However, in cases like these, it is not as simple. Bad checks are a serious offense that can change your life – for the worse. Exercise caution, and if someone approaches you with a similar favor to deposit a check to your account – think about it twice before depositing that check. Be diligent and do your homework.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. Full details of this scam at the US Postal Service.

Read next: I Have Bad Credit…Why Would an Identity Thief Bother?!

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