Scam alert: Be suspicious of customers who want to overpay for orders

Every day, as I read through my Crimedex Alerts, I am constantly amazed by how many scams involve fake checks. Some of these checks have been so painstakingly forged, even the banks can’t tell they’re phony. Every day, scammers use these checks to concoct elaborate schemes that scam people and businesses out of their hard-earned money.

The scheme, or a variation of it, goes like this: The scammer indicates his intention to buy a product or service from you. He then sends a check for more than the amount of what he’s requesting to buy. His reasoning is that you, the seller, will need to pay a third-party shipper, handler, or warehouse. You deposit the check and pay the funds to the third party. After the money is transferred (and your product is shipped), the check turns out to be fake. You are then out the funds you wired to the third party, who is inevitably in cahoots with the scammer. To add to the problem, you may be on the hook for trying to pass a bad check.

Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent this from happening to you. The first step is to educate your employees. Let your staff know how this scam works so they can immediately be cautious of any overpayment received by your company.



It might be wise to have policies in place that require your employees to only take payment for the amount of goods delivered. You may also want to require credit cards (with the three-digit security code) for any payment not made in person. Finally, make sure your own company checks are in a secure location (with limited access) so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

For more information on scams directed at businesses, read my blog post “Keep your company safe from scammers” or visit

Kimberly Hazen is the regional director for the southwest region of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. In her role, she works to advance marketplace trust between buyers and sellers and to promote informed buying decisions.

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