Overpayment scams work by getting you to ‘refund’ a scammer who has sent you a cheque for too much money for an item you are selling.

How this scam works

If you are selling something online or through classifieds ads, you may be targeted by a cheque overpayment scam.

The scammer will contact you, make you an offer—often quite generous—then send you a cheque as payment. The cheque will be for an amount that is greater than the agreed price.

Before the cheque has been cleared by your bank the scammer will contact you with an apology for the overpayment, offering a fake excuse. The scammer might tell you that the extra money was included to cover agent's fees or extra shipping costs. Or they may just say they simply made a mistake when writing the cheque.

The scammer will then ask you to refund the excess amount—usually through an online banking transfer, pre-loaded money card, or a wire transfer such as Western Union—before you discover that their cheque has bounced.

If you send any money, you will not get it back. If you have already sent the 'sold' item you will lose this as well. At the very least, the scammer will have wasted your time and prevented you from accepting any legitimate offers on your sale.

Warning signs

  • Somebody makes an offer to buy something you have for sale and pays you more than the agreed price with a cheque.
  • You are asked to refund the overpaid amount to a specific bank account or through a wire transfer.

Protect yourself

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • If you have been sent a cheque for more money than the agreed price, send it back and ask for another cheque with the correct amount. Do not agree to repay the difference until you are certain that the cheque has cleared.
  • Do not send the items to the buyer until the cheque has cleared in your bank account.
  • For items of high value, do not allow potential buyers to inspect the goods without someone else being there.

Have you been scammed?

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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