Fraud Watch: Over-payment scams

HELENA – Technology makes selling unwanted items a lot easier thanks to the various online platforms.

It’s a great way to make some extra money, but it can also present scammers with an opportunity to take your money.

“The person that you’re doing business with will send you more than the agreed upon amount and then ask that the money be wired back to them, or to a third party,” said Office of Consumer Protection Investigator Ryan Sullivan.

So if someone does give you a check that’s written for more than the agreed upon amount, usually the scammer wants you to cash the check.

“That check will eventually bounce and that money wired will be gone,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the agency sees these types of scams come through the office each year. He pointed out that once the check has been cashed, there’s not much that can be done to retrieve that lost money.

He also noted that the best way to avoid this type of scam is to meet in a public place for the transaction and to only deal with cash.

“These scammers usually hide behind a computer or an email. You rarely talk to them over the phone. They usually are thousands of miles away,” he said.

If you have been a victim of this type of scam, OCP still wants to know. Sullivan said investigators can still look into the situation and see if there is anything they can do and, at the very least, have the scam documented.

But as with any other scam: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.

The Office of Consumer Protection can be reached at 444-4500 or online here.