If you’ve sold popular items on Craigslist or Ebay, you might have been contacted by people that ask you if they can pay by a third party cashier’s check. Usually the story is that someone owes the buyer money and that they will pay you on behalf of the buyer. Often some legitimacy is added by having the buyer say they are from a different country and that this is a way to make the payment easier.
If you accept these terms, you will soon find that the check is for more than the purchase price, and you are asked to send the difference through Western Union back to the buyer.
It is also possible that after you send the difference, the buyer suddenly runs into some financial difficulty and asks you to cancel the sale and send the rest of the money.
Soon after, you’ll find that the cashier’s check is fraudulent and that your bank will try to reclaim the funds from you.
It is popular belief that cashier’s checks mean that you are guaranteed the money, but this is not the case. Your bank will usually clear the funds quickly but there is still a window of several weeks in which the payment can be determined fraudulent and reversed.
- Be suspicious of any payment arrangement that involves someone other than the buyer.
- Realize that cashiers checks are not a guarantee that the funds will clear.
- Never send money back to an unknown buyer.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know through Western Union or another such untraceable service.