The internet has created a new dynamic in the world of the con artist. Previously the con artist would actually have to meet the victim, pretend that they were friends, and convince the victim to place his or her trust in the con artist. All that has changed since the onset of the internet, and now con artists can swindle dozens of victims at a time without ever even having to see the face they are stealing money from. One of the many ways that con artists are taking advantage of people is by paying for items with phony cashier’s checks, so be wary.
Here’s how the scam usually goes down. You have an item that you want to sell or an apartment that you want to rent, so you place an advertisement on a place like craigslist or eBay. Out of the blue, you will receive an email from a “prospective buyer” who would like to purchase your item or rent your apartment without ever seeing the item.
When the discussion comes to paying for the item or renting the apartment, the scammer will offer a cashier’s check to pay for it. Usually we think of cashier’s checks as a pretty solid form of payment, but not in this case! When the cashier’s check comes, it will usually be for far more than the value of the item that you are selling, often ten times that amount. The person will then tell you that they “trust” you to return the extra money that wasn’t part of the purchase price.
If someone were to fall for this scam and took that check to the bank, more often than not the bank would actually cash it! In fact, the check would even clear in most cases. The victim would think that the check was legitimate, and wire the money back to con artist. The customer got his or her portion of the money, and the con artist got all of the extra money, everyone should be happy right?
The bank will eventually figure out that the cashier’s check you deposited was phony. Often times it takes four to six weeks for them to figure out, but if you deposit a phony cashier’s check, you will have to pay back the money. The bank will hold you responsible. In some cases depositing phony checks is actually a crime, so there even could be criminal consequences too!
Just don’t fall for any of these scams. The cashier’s checks you get in these situations are always phony, and it is going to come back and bite you. You should never have to wire money back when you are selling something online, if anything sounds fishy, just look for another buyer.