Unwitting consumers are falling for a new twist on the old “advance fee scam.” In this variation, a consumer receives what looks like a legitimate check in the mail, either as “foreign lottery proceeds,” “prize money,” or even payment for goods via classifieds (which includes Craigslist and eBay).
The scammer requests that you send back a portion to pay for fees or handling charges, or says they “overpaid” and need you to pay back the difference. The check clears when deposited in the bank. A few days later, the check bounces and the thief has got whatever the rube sent them.
The FTC advises:
• Don’t wire money to strangers.
• Throw away offers that ask you to send back money for your “free” gift.
• Only accept checks from people you trust.
— BEN POPKEN