Check overpayment scams are nothing new; they begin when a scammer overpays for a service, then asks the victim to return the difference. The check for the original payment bounces after the victim has wired the “overpayment” to the scammer. The scammer walks away from the transaction with the money from the victim, and the victim is left without payment.
Recently, contractors in Oregon have become a target for these check overpayment scams. Here’s a common scenario:
An out-of-state customer contacts a contractor to perform work (e.g., painting, driveway repair) on a nearby home they claim to have recently purchased. The “customer” is not available to meet in person until the work is complete. Communication is conducted over the phone, text, or email.
When the contractor agrees to do the work, the customer sends a check for more than the required deposit. The customer then requests an immediate refund of the overpayment amount.
Contractors who have been contacted by these scammers have often found that the house, which is still listed for sale on real estate websites, will not show that an offer is pending. Real estate agents have confirmed that the person contacting the contractor is not the buyer of the house.
- Protect yourself from check overpayment scams.
- Always meet with the customer in person.
- Never accept a check for more than what was requested.
- Never agree to wire funds back to a customer.
- Be cautious when accepting out of state checks; request checks from local banks whenever possible.
Get a contract when working with a customer, even if the payment amount falls below the $2,000 requirement threshold. Listen to your instincts. If something about a job doesn’t seem right, don’t accept it.
If you are contacted by a scammer or think you have fallen victim to a scammer, contact the Oregon Office of the Attorney General at 1-877-877-9392, or online at www.oregonconsumer.gov.
Source: Oregon Construction Contractors Board