How To Avoid This New Version of a Classic Scam

scam remix

With the rise of DJs and electronic music, “remixes” have become extremely popular. They often involve taking a classic older hit song and changing it up electronically into a new work of art.

Not to be outdone, scammers around the world are “remixing” classic scams and some of these remixes are proving to be very popular with an unsuspecting group of targets. The most recent one to resurface is the “overpayment scam.”

You may recognize it in one of its original versions. A company or individual (sometimes foreign) contacts you and wants to make a purchase. But there is some problem with the currency transaction, so you are given a money order for more than the amount and then asked to send them back part of the overpayment and keep part of the overpayment for the bother you’ve gone through.

Eventually the money order bounces and you’ve lost the money you “refunded.” An alternate version has you depositing the overpayment in some “escrow” account and then you lose whatever you’ve deposited there.

Overpayment Scam 4.0

A new version of this scam targets photographers, but I think that many small businesses could be caught by the new twists. Freelance photographers are being solicited to take family or wedding pictures. Again, a check or money order for more than the actual fee is sent and the photographer is instructed to send the difference to an event planner or other third party.

Photographers who fall for this will find that the checks they have sent that supposedly cover the “overpayment” clear before they discover that their original checks or money orders have bounced.

There are a wide range of red flags that should tip you off on this scam. Some of the warning signs apply to many other scams as well. Let’s look at them.

First, whenever someone wants to send you money for a sum that is greater than what you’re charging for your product or service, you’re in danger of being scammed. Think of it this way: Anyone doing this is essentially asking you to take the role of banker. The urban legend around prolific bank robber Willie Sutton has him explaining why he robbed banks by saying, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Anyone running this scam is betting that you will be “where the money is,” because their money is certainly not underwriting the check or money order they send you. Don’t play the role of banker for anyone outside of a friendly game of Monopoly.

Next, many of these scams paint too-good-to-be-true scenarios. In the photography version, the family is available to take photographs at virtually any time of the day that’s convenient for the photographer. Small business owners often find themselves bending over backwards to please their customers and clients. When someone shows up who is easy to accommodate, it’s a major relief and that makes it even more tempting to “bite.”

We all know what they say about things that seem “too good to be true.” Don’t forget that wisdom.

Communication control freaks

You’ll also find that communication channels are usually limited to email in these scams. Photographers know that their real clients often prefer to talk on the phone so if you have any clients who seem unwilling or unable to make personal contact, a red flag should go up.

Many of these scams have the common thread of depositing money with a third party. When the third party is passed off as an “escrow” company, it gives the scam an air of legitimacy. However, don’t use any escrow company other than one that you have experience with.

Share this information with the rest of your team so you can all be on alert for the latest twists on classic scams. By the way, also let your family and friends know. The overpayment scammers often target private party sellers of big-ticket items on Craig’s List and else where.

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