A Hard to Spot Scam Could Cost You Thousands of Dollars

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When selling goods online, you might be worried about not being paid at all for your products.

But what happens when someone sends you a cheque for much more than you're charging for?

Recently, a reader got in touch with insauga.com to ask for more information regarding a long-running but difficult to pinpoint scam that targets people who sell goods online.

Recently, a potential scam victim took to Facebook to share an experience he reportedly had while trying to sell products on Kijiji. According to the poster, he received a cheque for $2,850 for items that only cost the buyer $800. When he asked why the cheque amount was so high, he was allegedly informed that extra money was meant to cover shipping costs.

After checking with his bank, he determined the check was fraudulent and that he could have ended up on the hook for the extra cash.

Confused?

According to Snopes.com, this long-running scam does, in fact, exist and works to bilk people selling big ticket items online out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

As for how it works, a person selling an expensive item(s) online is contacted by a prospective buyer who typically lives far from the seller—often in a different country.

Snopes says this buyer will usually agree to the listed price, no questions asked. After that, he or she usually offers to have someone pick up and ship the product to their country once the sale is complete, promising he or she will cover charges associated with that aspect of the sale.At this point, a cheque for more than the agreed-upon price is offered.

According to Snopes, this cheque is to come from the foreign buyer, with the extra amount to be sent to a third party who is handling the shipping. At this point, the seller is asked to cash the cheque, keep the appropriate amount for the sale of the items, and send what's left to the third party.

The seller deposits the cheque and sends the extra money to the person or organization it's owed to, only to have the buyer fail to claim the goods.

Later on, the bank typically tells the seller that the cheque was a forgery and that he or she is out the amount he or she sent to someone else.

So if you were trying to sell a laptop for $500 and gave a phantom shipper a cheque for, say, $1000, you're out a grand (and that initial $500 isn't coming).

According to Snopes, this scam works because cheques often take a few days to clear, so the seller will have sent the overage long before realizing the cheque has bounced.

So, if you're selling a big ticket item and a buyer asks to pay by cheque for an amount significantly over and above the cost of the product, exercise extreme caution and, if suspicious, hold out for a buyer with less complex demands.

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