By Emily Patterson

Reps for direct sales companies like Avon, Thirty-One Gifts and Mary Kay are finding themselves the targets of a new take on the classic check scam. Scammers pose as new customers and try to con consultants out of hundreds of dollars.

How the Scam Works:

You are a consultant for a direct sales company, and you receive an email or text message from a potential customer. The exact details of the situation vary. The “new customer” may simply request to purchase a few products, but some scammers provide an elaborate back story.  In one recent version, the scammer alleges to be working on a movie filmed nearby and urgently needs makeup for the actors.

The request seems like an easy sale, so you prepare the products and receipt. Then, your new “customer” sends you an urgent message. There was some mix up, and she/he accidentally sent a check for far more money than the purchase amount. The customer suggests that you fix the mistake by depositing the check, keeping the money for the purchase and wiring the remainder to someone else.

The stories given vary. Sometimes you are asked to wire money to a “doctor.” Other times, you are supposedly sending cash to the daughter’s wedding planner. No matter the tale, a few things are for sure. The check is a fake, and, if you withdraw money against it, you are out those funds.

Tips to Avoid Fake Check Scams:

Whether you are a professional direct sales consultant or simply selling a few items on Craigslist, check scams are common cons. Here are some tips:

  1. Be wary of checks received from unknown individuals: When selling to someone you don’t know, it is safer to accept cash or credit card payments.
  2. Do not accept overpayments: Don’t take checks for more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you.
  3. 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. The same goes for pre-paid debit cards, a new favorite payment method for scammers.
  4. Confirm before you withdraw cash: A check can take several days to clear, and, until then, you are responsible for any funds withdrawn against it. To make sure the check cleared, call your bank… not the telephone number listed on the check.

For More Information

To find out more about scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
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