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Beware of overpayment scams this holiday season

• Dec 20, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned Ohioans to beware of overpayment scams this holiday season. The scam commonly affects businesses, charities, and people who sell items online.

In the scam, a con artist pretends to overpay for something (often by providing a counterfeit check or fraudulent credit card) and then asks the victim to return the extra amount right away using another form of payment. While the victim’s payment is good, the con artist’s is not.

“Any time someone sends you a check and asks you to send a portion of the money back, there’s a good chance it’s a scam,” DeWine said. “We just warn people to be careful. Con artists are very good at what they do. They can be very believable, but take a minute to think about it before sending any money.”

In one variation of the scam, a charity is contacted by someone who wants to make a donation. When the donor’s check arrives, it’s written for twice as much as the promised donation. The donor then sends an email, saying the check was a mistake, and asks the charity to return the extra amount via wire transfer. In reality, the donor’s check is invalid, and any money the charity sends will be lost.

In another variation of the scam, a business receives an email from a potential customer. The customer places an order and asks the business to charge an extra few hundred dollars to the customer’s credit card and then give the extra amount in cash to a carrier who will pick up the order. Ultimately, the customer’s credit card is invalid and the business will lose any money it gives to the carrier.

The overpayment scam also affects individuals who post items for sale online. Commonly, a con artist will pose as a seller, offer to buy an item, and send a check for more than the agreed-upon price. Then the con artist asks the seller to return the extra payment immediately (before the check has cleared).

Signs of a potential overpayment scam include:

• Customers who send checks for more than the agreed-upon price.

• Customers who want their credit cards to be charged extra.

• Individuals who immediately agree to buy an item offered for sale online.

• Requests for wire transfers, money orders, or prepaid cards (payment methods often requested by scammers).

• Demands for immediate action.

• Threats about what will happen if no action is taken.

To report a potential scam, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

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