Security Bulletins & Alerts

Check overpayment scams

What is a check overpayment scam?

If you are selling something over the internet or through the classifieds, you may be targeted by a check overpayment scam. You might receive an offer from a potential buyer (often quite generous) and accept it. The scammer then sends you a check, but the check is for more money than the agreed price. The scammer will invent an excuse for the overpayment. For example, the scammer might tell you that the extra money is meant to cover the fees of an agent or extra shipping costs.

The scammer might just say that it was a mistake they made when they wrote the check. The scammer will then ask you to refund the excess amount—usually through an online banking transfer or a wire transfer (such as Western Union). The scammer is hoping that you will do this before you discover that their check has bounced. You will have lost the money you paid into their account, and if you have already sent the item you were selling, you will lose this as well. At the very least, the scammer will have wasted your time and prevented you from accepting any legitimate offers.

Requests for your account information ('phishing' scams)

Phishing emails are fake emails usually pretending to be from banks or other financial institutions. They make up some reason for you to give your account details and then use these details to steal your money.

What is phishing?

'Phishing' refers to emails that trick people into giving out their personal and banking information. These emails seem to come from legitimate businesses, normally banks or other financial institutions. The scammers are generally trying to get information like your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers. This information is then used to steal your money. Phishing messages and emails often look genuine. They seem to come from a financial institution or other company and they use what looks to be genuine internet addresses. They often copy an institution's logo and message format. This is very easy to do. It is common for phishing messages to contain links to a website that is a convincing fake of the real company's home page. The website that the scammer's email links to will have an address (URL) that is similar to but not the same as the real bank or financial institution's site. For example, if the genuine site is at "www.boston.com", the scammer may use an address like "www.boston.com.log107.biz" or "www.phoneybank.com/boston.com.au/login".

'Nigerian 419' scams

You are promised huge rewards if you help someone transfer money out of their country by paying fees or giving them your bank account details. A 'Nigerian' scam is a form of upfront payment or money transfer scam. They are called Nigerian scams because the first wave of them came from Nigeria, but they can come from anywhere in the world. The '4-1-9' part of the name comes from the section of Nigeria's Criminal Code which outlaws the practice. The scammers usually contact you by email or letter and offer you a share in a large sum of money that they want to transfer out of their country. They may tell you about money trapped in central banks during civil wars or coups, often in countries currently in the news. Or they may tell you about massive inheritances that are difficult to access because of government restrictions or taxes in the scammer's country. Scammers ask you to pay money or give them your bank account details to help them transfer the money. You are then asked to pay fees, charges or taxes to help release or transfer the money out of the country through your bank. These 'fees' may even start out as quite small amounts. If paid, the scammer makes up new fees that require payment before you can receive your 'reward'. They will keep making up these excuses until they think they have got all the money they can out of you. You will never be sent the money that was promised.

Phony fraud alerts

Scammers pretend to be from your bank or financial institution and tell you that there is a problem with your account. They ask for your account details to protect your money, but then use these details to steal your money. What is a phony fraud alert? A phony fraud alert is similar to a phishing scam. It can come in the form of an email or a phone call claiming to be from your bank or financial institution. The scammer will usually tell you that your credit card or account has been cancelled because it was involved in criminal activity, or because they suspect your card or details have been stolen. This is a trick to get you to give them your account details. You will be told that a suspicious transaction has recently occurred on your account, perhaps a large purchase in a foreign country. You will be told that if you did not authorize the transaction, you need to take immediate action as your credit card details have been stolen.

The scammer will ask you to confirm your credit card or account details so the 'bank' can 'investigate'. If you receive an email, it may ask you to visit a website to confirm your credit card details or to find out more information on the supposed 'fraud' to your account./In some variations of this scam, the scammer may already have your credit card number (that they have stolen previously), and may even quote this to you. They will then ask you to confirm that you are the cardholder by telling them the 3 or 4 digit security number printed on the card. If the scammers have this number, they can use your card to buy things over the internet or phone.

These phony fraud investigations are used to steal your banking details so the scammers can use your account. They work by lowering your guard with the phony fraud alert. They hope that you panic and do what they suggest to fix the 'problem'. They are particularly tricky to spot because real banks and credit unions often do contact people if there has been suspicious activity on their account.

Card Skimming

Card skimming is the illegal copying of information from the magnetic strip of a credit or ATM card. This can create a fake or 'cloned' card with your details on it. What is card skimming? 'Card skimming' is the illegal copying of information from the magnetic strip of a credit or ATM card. It is a more direct version of a phishing scam. The scammers try to steal your details so they can access your accounts. Once scammers have skimmed your card, they can create a fake or 'cloned' card with your details on it. The scammer is then able to run up charges on your account. Card skimming is also a way for scammers to steal your identity (your personal details) and use it to commit identity fraud. By stealing your personal details and account numbers the scammer may be able to borrow money or take out loans in your name.

Warning signs

  • A shop assistant takes your card out of your sight in order to process your transaction.

  • You are asked to swipe your card through more than one machine. You see a shop assistant swipe the card through a different machine to the one you used.

  • You notice something suspicious about the card slot on an ATM (e.g. an attached device).

  • You notice unusual or unauthorized transactions on your account or credit card statement.

Contact us at security@readingcoop.com.