[SCAM ALERT!] Online Financial Scam Targets Digital Immigrants

How Getting Paid MORE Can Leave You Broke …

If you’re doing business online, any business—whether it’s selling hand-crafted items on Etsy or Ebay, or using Craigslist to clear out your closet—this is a financial scam you need to know about.

Of course a scammer will target anyone, but Digital Immigrants—those of us who didn’t grow up with computers in every classroom—are presumably the most vulnerable.

(Millennials, the Digital Natives, have been taught that the old axiom, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” holds true…even and especially when it comes to online transactions.)

The Scam and How it Works

In a nutshell, yoonline financial scam that breaks your bank by paying you more...u sell something online.

The buyer pays you with a very official (looking) check or money order.

But the dollar amount is hundreds, if not thousands more than the agreed upon price…

Say you’re selling something on Craigslist—an antique desk, for example.

You list your item at $560, making it clear that shipping is available but it isn’t free.

And since you don’t know who will buy it or where you might have to ship it to, you make a point to say that the cost is to be determined.

You get a hit from someone in Latvia, or Czech Republic, or Ohio—wherever—expressing interest. They love the desk and they agree to send you a money order overnight for the full price plus the additional shipping expenses.

Great! The money order arrives the next day, as promised.

And, also as promised, to cover the shipping, the sum is more than $560.

But it’s a lot more than $560 … Your buyer from Ohio has sent you a money order for $3,560.

Typo? Maybe …

But how could it be? It’s a money order—cold hard cash had to be exchanged for that slip of paper you’re holding in your hand. (And in the case of a check, who accidentally writes in a “3” … twice?!)

Just to be sure, though, you send your buyer an email …

She assures you that, indeed, it is NOT a typo—she just didn’t know how much it would cost to ship the desk, so she sent you what she figured would be more than enough to cover it. You should go ahead and get that antique in the mail.

Obviously it won’t be $3,000 to do that, so if you’d write her a check to cover the difference and send it along with the desk she’d be grateful …

It’s a heavy desk and it costs a pretty penny to send, $751.87 to be precise.

You add that to the amount owed you for the desk, write the check, and … You are now out $2,248.13 and one antique desk. have you been the victim of an online financial scam? frustration is the least of it...

The money order looked official, but it wasn’t. It’s just not that hard to create a fake that looks real, anymore.

Even the bank was fooled, at first—they made the funds available to you almost immediately, but upon further inspection realized they were looking at a fraud and promptly withdrew them.

In the meantime you’ve been drawing on those funds and, to add insult to injury, the last check you wrote is going to bounce.

Not only could it happen, it is happening.

How to Avoid Being a Victim of This (or any Other) Online Financial Scam

First and foremost, cash is always preferable to a check or a money order. But this works a lot better if you’ve got a brick-and-morter location that people are already coming to…

Sending cash through the mail isn’t advisable, especially if you’re the one sending it, as there’s no way to prove that a payment has been made—most of your buyers won’t be comfortable with that. (We wouldn’t even bother asking.)

If you’re set up to accept credit cards you can avoid a lot of headaches by processing payments that way. Sure, there’s a middle man who’s going to take a cut, but isn’t it worth a few bucks to guarantee that the money actually makes it into your account and stays there?

Okay. But what if you’re not an active seller? This really isn’t your business—it’s hardly a side hustle—you just wanted to get rid of that desk…

There are two ways to collect payment for items sold online that are relatively fool proof.

Paypal. All you need to set up a PayPal account is a credit card and an email address. Sending and receiving money is fast, easy and secure. Click here to find out more.

Check or Money Order. Wait. What? Aren’t fake checks and money orders that look real the whole problem?

Well, yes. But now that you know the risks and how the scam works there’s an easy way to protect yourself: be patient.

Most banks will credit your account almost immediately with either all or most of your deposit value—just remember that your “available funds” amount is not the same as your “account balance” amount. 

After you deposit the check or money order for the item you’ve sold, wait! It may take a day or two (or even more, depending on how high the dollar amount is) for the funds to actually be in your account, as opposed to “available”.

If you want to be extra-paranoid, call your bank or visit one of its physical locations and talk to a real person to verify that the check or money order was real and that the funds have indeed cleared. Once you have that verification, you’re good to ship the item.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, a legitimate buyer will understand—it’s a desk, not an organ transplant.

Have you or a loved one been the victim of an online financial scam?

Leave a comment to let other readers know what you’re doing to protect yourself now.



To your safest, most scam-savvy self,  

Care for You  



If you’ve lost money in an online transaction the bad news is that you’re probably not going to get it back—the good news is that we can help you avoid being swindled in the future.

Call us in the greater Washington, DC metro area at 301-650-4169 or visit our Contact page and drop us a line.  


Leave a Reply