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Fraudulent cheques leave victims of overpayment scams with high losses

Vancouver (September 3, 2019) – A B.C. photographer has fallen victim to an overpayment scam which left her with losses over $4,600 according to Global News. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) are warning against fake cheque scams that defraud sellers. They take many different forms which makes them harder to detect.

In the case of the B.C. photographer, the scammers showed interest in her wedding photography services. She was approached via text with the declared intention to book her to take pictures at the wedding of the bogus client’s daughter. After several emails, the photographer requested a down payment of $700 and a signed contract. When the cheque arrived, the deal seemed sealed for the businesswoman. However, the cheque was issued in the amount of $5,500 which was much more than the requested $700. The bogus client argued that the overpayment was due to an accounting error and asked the photographer to send the extra money to the alleged wedding caterer.

The B.C. woman sent the money to the third party via mobile deposit as requested by the scammer after she had seen that the money from the cheque was displayed on her account. Little did she know that within days the cheque would bounce and the money she thought was credited to her account was gone, as was the requested ‘overpayment’. Global News reports that the photographer was able to recover $900 from her bank. However, she has lost $4,600 over the bogus client and his overpayment scheme.

The CAFC, the BBB, and the CBA are warning against fake cheque scams such as overpayment scams. Since they come in a huge variety, they are very hard to detect for sellers. Not only service providers are targeted by these fraudsters, anyone selling goods should be suspicious of any cheque, especially if it is for more than the agreed selling price, warns the CAFC. Particularly sellers of high-priced items using online ads such as craigslist are affected. In addition to the lost money over the fake cheque, the seller may have already sent the item that was for sale to the fraudster.

The CBA explains that ‘a cheque or money order is a payment agreement made between a buyer and seller. The bank processes the payment but they are not involved in the agreement. You are responsible for the items you deposit in your bank account. If the item is returned as fraudulent, you, as the depositor, are liable for the full amount.’ The scammers use a range of excuses to explain the overpayment, but any such excuse should be treated with the highest level of suspicion. To avoid losses to fake cheque scams, the associations recommend to never accept cheques that are more than the agreed amount of money or consider alternative payment methods, and ultimately, if the situation seems suspicious to find another buyer.