Consumer Protection

How to Protect Yourself: Overpayment Scams
Source: The Florida Attorney General


The Attorney General's Office has received numerous complaints from consumers across the state reporting multiple variations on an overpayment scam. In this scheme, a thief selects the victim after browsing through classified ads for a car or other large-ticket item offered for sale. The thief pretends to be an interested buyer from out of town and sends payment in the form of a cashier's check, money order or personal check. The payment typically arrives in an amount greater than the purchase price.

The Attorney General's Office offers the following tips to avoid falling prey to this scam:

  • Know who you are dealing with. Independently confirm the buyer's name, address and telephone number. Keep in mind that most legitimate buyers would want to see a car before buying it.
  • Never accept payment for more than the purchase price of the item, no matter how tempting. Never wire money to the buyer or a third party at the buyer's request. If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately – legitimate buyers won't pressure you to send money.
  • If possible, accept only cash. If you do accept a check for payment, do not turn over the car until you verify that the check has cleared the issuing bank.
  • Request a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch, which allows you to make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If you cannot get a check from a local bank, call the bank where the check originated and ask if it is valid. Get the bank's phone number from directory assistance or an internet site you know and trust, not from the person who gave you the check.
  • Resist any pressure to "act now" If the buyer's offer is good now, it should still be good after the check clears the issuing bank.
Any citizen who believes he or she has been a victim should call the Attorney General's Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or may file a complaint online at http://myfloridalegal.com/contact.nsf/contact.