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Scammers Use Fake Money to Lure Sellers into Sending Them Real Money

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 10:08 AM

Protect Yourself from Overpayment Scams with Tips from Western Union

ENGLEWOOD, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- People looking to unload a lightly used couch, still-in-the-box electronics, or even a used car gathering dust in the garage look to online classifieds and auction websites. They’re easy to use and give sellers the opportunity to connect with lots of potential buyers.

Sellers need to beware, though, because imposter buyers troll these sites looking for victims they can lure in with the overpayment scam.

The scam, which is among the top five reported crime types according to the 2011 Internet Crime Report, is easily deconstructed:

1. Fraudsters play the role of buyer and target consumers selling a service or product, generally online.

2. The “buyer” sends the seller a legitimate-looking check for an amount higher than the agreed-upon price.

3. They concoct an explanation for this overpayment (“Oops, my mistake.” or “Some of the overpayment is a commission for you.”) and tell the seller to deposit the check and wire back the excess money.

4. Weeks later, the victim learns the check is a fake but is still on the hook to pay the bank back for any money withdrawn.

“It’s a common misconception that only people who buy online are at risk for fraud, but sellers are at risk too,” said Shelley Bernhardt , Director of Consumer Protection at Western Union (NYSE: WU), a leader in global payment services. “They’re susceptible to clever con artists who use counterfeit checks to get them to send real money. We don’t want them to lose money and the item they’re selling so we’re breaking the scam down and giving tips so they know how to protect themselves.”

Avoid getting scammed with these helpful tips:

  • Know who you’re doing business with; independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address, and telephone number.
  • Don’t accept a check or money order for more than your selling price. If the name on the check doesn’t match the name of the person you’re dealing with, immediately end the transaction.
  • Consider dealing in cash and in-person with local buyers. If this isn’t feasible, ask for a check drawn on a local bank so you can visit a local branch or office to determine if the check is legitimate. Or, consider an alternative method of payment like a trusted escrow service or online payment service.
  • If a buyer insists that you wire money, don’t. Scammers pressure people to use wire transfer services because the money’s picked up in cash and difficult to trace afterward.
  • Fake checks or money orders play a starring role in overpayment scams, advance fee and prepayment scams, mystery shopping scams, lottery prize scams, and more. Don’t use these funds until your bank officially clears them, and remember: Banks must make deposited funds available within a few days but it can take weeks to uncover a fake check.
  • Resist pressure from a buyer to act immediately. If the buyer’s intentions are good, he or she will wait for the check to clear to finish the transaction.
  • If you’re communicating with anyone by email, check for common red flags like poor grammar, misspellings, character/spacing mistakes, and excessive capitalization.

If you sent a Western Union Money Transfer® and believe you may be a victim of fraud, call the Western Union Fraud Hotline number at (800) 448-1492.

Information on scams is available on the Consumer Protection section of Western Union’s website: Additional information on money wiring scams is available from the Federal Trade Commission at: > Consumer Protection > Money Matters > Scam Watch > Money Wiring Scams.

About Western Union

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of June 30, 2012, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of approximately 510,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories. In 2011, The Western Union Company completed 226 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $81 billion of principal between consumers, and 425 million business payments. For more information, visit


Source: Western Union

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