The Better Business Bureau is warning “home party” consultants from popular companies such as Thirty-One Gifts, Avon, Lia Sophia and others about a recent scam targeting unsuspecting sales representatives.
This scam is a twist on the “fake check” scams the BBB has warned about in the past.
According to complainants, consultants are contacted by an individual via e-mail asking to purchase products and the parties engage in a back-and-forth about the products and purchasing procedures. Sometimes it is a straight request for products and other times, they indicate their own sales representative is not available.
The process of ordering progresses in a typical fashion, until the “consumer” sends an e-mail about an urgent situation involving them having to “overpay” the consultant by check and asking the consultant to cash the check, keep the amount for the merchandise and then wire the remainder of the amount back to the “consumer.” As with many other fake check scams, the check looks very authentic and the sender mentions some sort of hardship or urgent situation that necessitates the one receiving the check to send money back, almost always via a wire service.
An example of one urgent situation:
“…there is a little bit of problem or mixed up.I am currently attending a Christian Conference right now and I instructed one of my Clients to facilitate the payment to your address. The Problem is that I just read a mail from my Debtor’s new secretary that she sent out the whole amount she owed me to you instead of her to send you the exact amount of the items I ordered from you… Please consider this a favor that I want you to do for me right now because I sensed you have integrity to maintain. Please once you receive the check, deduct the amount for the items and help me send the remaining balance to my daughter’s event planner. She would need it for her wedding logistics and preparations… Once you receives the check, have it deposited in your account so that funds can be made available within 24hrs -48hrs to get my items ordered and help my Daughter wire $1,450 to her event planner by western union.”
In this instance, when the consultant did not immediately cash the check and wire the money back, the “purchaser” begins to put more pressure on the consultant to cash the check, stating increased urgency.
Unfortunately if the consultant takes the bait, cashes the check, sends the product and wires the money, they will find out in several days that the check was counterfeit and they have lost the money they wired as well as the cost of the merchandise they sent.
Until a financial institution can confirm the funds have been “finally collected,” the consultant is responsible for any funds they may withdraw against that check deposit.
The amount of time it can take for the bank to finally collect the money can vary, particularly with out-of-state or out-of-country checks.
Tips for home sales consultants accepting checks as payment:
• Be leery of checks received from unknown individuals and those contacting the consultant independently of a scheduled party.
• Do not accept a check for more than the merchandise costs.
• Never agree to cash a check and return money to an unknown purchaser regardless of the hardship they are reportedly experiencing.
• Do not wire money to anyone you do not know. Wired money is extremely difficult to trace and you will not be able to recover these funds.
• Independently verify that any check is drawn from an actual account at a legitimate financial institution.
Do not rely on the telephone number listed on the check. Use directory assistance to get the telephone number of the financial institution and call them to verify the check.
• Once you deposit a check, do not rely on the money until the funds have been finally collected by your financial institution. “Funds available” is not good enough.
• If you have any questions about whether a transaction is legitimate, or if funds have been finally collected, talk to your bank or credit union.
Those who have been victimized by a phony check drawn on a federally insured financial institution should phone the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at (877) 275-3342.
If the check is drawn on a foreign bank, contact the United States Secret Service at www.secretservice.gov or contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at their website, www.IC3.gov.