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Richard's Story - Overpayment Scam

Several months ago, I decided to sell my baby grand piano. I had posted it on eBay, and had a number of inquiries via e-mail.

Among them was one individual who asked that should he purchase the piano, he would like to pay substantially more than the agreed on price, the balance of which then would then be refunded to him via Western Union. His command of English was relatively poor and he was unable to provide information as to what piano shipping company in my city he planned to use.

I was skeptical about his proposal, but I did receive in the mail a very official-looking bank money order. However, when I took the check to my bank for deposit, they identified it as fraudulent and told me I was being subjected to an overpayment scheme.

I decided to play a bit with the scammer by sending him a ten digit made up Western Union cash transfer number. I surmised that this fellow had fallen for the bait since in a subsequent e-mail he informed me that I was a scammer and that he had reported me to local authorities, and also the FBI and the State Attorney General's office. Both of these reports were accompanied by supposed case numbers. I never heard from him again.

Editor's Note:
Overpayment scams are very common and take many forms. If you are selling something online, be very wary of 'buyers' who wish to send you a cheque or money order for more than the original purchase price of the item. Often, the scammers will claim that the extra money is to cover shipping or other associated costs. They will ask you to wire the extra funds to a designated 'shipping agent' via a money transfer system such as Western Union. As Richard discovered, the cheque or money order will turn out to be fake or stolen.

In other versions, the scammers will offer the potential victims a job or pretend to be interested in using their services. Again, they will send more than the agreed upon salary or service fee and ask that the remainder be wired to a third party.

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