The Villages Voice - November 2016

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SENIORS Vs. CRIME CHECK OVERPAYMENT SCAMS

by Bryan Lifsey, Office Manager

  SENIORS Vs. CRIME   CHECK OVERPAYMENT SCAMS   Seniors Vs Crime and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers of a dangerous and growing swindle called the “Check Overpayment” scam. It is now the fifth most common telemarketing fraud and the fourth most common Internet scam ever reported.   Seniors Vs Crime has been receiving increasing number of reports from victims of this scam as well as residents who saw it but dodged the scam. It seems that most victims in our area were selling something either through the newspaper classified ads (online or print), “For Sale” sites such as Craig’s List, or similar means.   In the check overpayment scam, the person you are doing business with sends you a check for more than the amount they owe you, and then instructs you to wire the balance back to them. Or, they send a check, and tell you to deposit it, keep part of the amount for your own compensation, and then wire the rest back for one reason or another. The results are the same: the check eventually bounces, and you’re stuck, responsible for the full amount, including what you wired to the scammer.   The checks in this scam are fake, but they often look real enough to fool most bankers.   In our area, the majority of “sales” involve buyers out of the country (possibly in military service) who cannot come to view, pick up, and pay for their purchase in person. They offer to pay in advance by a ‘certified check’. The check is always for more that your asking price. They may advise you they will arrange for a shipper to pick up their purchase but you should cash their check and mail the shipper the excess amount as the shipping costs. Or they may actually send someone to your door to pick up the merchandise and ask you to give that ‘company’ the excess payment (in which case you lose cash as well the item you were selling). The stories vary but it always involves YOU sending someone else money.   The FTC offers the following tips for avoiding the check overpayment scam:
  • Know who you’re dealing with – independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address, and telephone number.
  • Never agree to wire back funds to a buyer -- a legitimate buyer will not pressure you to do so, and you have limited recourse if there is a problem with a wire transfer.
  • If you’re selling something over the Internet, say “no” to a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story.
  • Resist pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good when the check clears.
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the check is legitimate.
  • There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back.
  • Consider an alternative method of payment, such as an escrow service or online payment service. If the buyer wants to use a service you have not heard of, be sure to check it out to be sure it is reliable – check its Web site, call its customer service hotline, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. If you do not feel comfortable with the service, do not use it. Be careful because some “escrow services” such as PayPal have been impersonated. Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate service on their real web site.
  Consumers are asked to report check overpayment scams to the National Fraud Information Center/Internet Fraud Watch, a service of the National Consumers League at www.fraud.org or 1-800-876-7060, or the FTC at www.ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP.   Remember, no one will watch out for your interests better than YOU.  When in doubt as to what you can to do to protect yourself against Overpayment Scams, contact your nearest Seniors Vs. Crime office in The Villages for advice or assistance.  There is never a charge for their services.   Seniors Vs. Crime can be reached at 352-753-7775 at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in The Villages; 352-689-4600, Extension 4606 at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office in The Villages; or 352-750-1914 at the Wildwood Police Annex in Brownwood.  Volunteers’ at all three offices are ready, willing and able to assist you.  To keep up with the latest scams, LIKE ‘Seniors vs. Crime Region 4’ on Face Book.   Bryan Lifsey, Office Manager Seniors Vs. Crime