Notice: Scam Targeting Online Sellers

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Selling something online? FBI warns to watch out for this scam.

Online scammers have an ever-growing list of high-tech tools they can use to cheat people out of their hard-earned money.

This scheme just relies on good ol’ fashioned paper checks.

The FBI is warning people selling items online to be cautious when accepting a check as payment from a buyer after its Portland, Oregon office said a growing number of people have reported being victims of a check-cashing scam.

Here’s how it works:

You post something for sale online. A buyer contacts you and offers to send a check as payment.

Then, the FBI said there are two ways the scam can work out. In the first, you receive the check and send out the item, only to learn later that the check was fraudulent. In the other, the “buyer” sends the check but then claims to have a change of heart and asks for a refund. You send a check back, only to learn later that the check you received was fraudulent.

The second version of the scam is being reported more frequently lately, officials said.

The FBI pointed to some tips from the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:

  • Never take a check for more than your selling price.
  • Never send money back to someone who sent you a check.
  • Just because a check has cleared, doesn’t mean that it’s good. Banks are required to make deposited funds available quickly, but it can sometimes take several days for the bank to learn that the check was actually bad. So give it a few days before sending the item out.
  • If selling online, consider using a secure online payment service.

The FBI said anyone who has been victimized by an online scam can file a complaint with its Internet Crime Complaint Center or their local FBI field office.