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Internet Horse-Sale Scam: Beware of Overpayments!

September 6, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

It’s always somewhat risky when you buy or sell a horse, so here’s another issue to keep in mind during sales transactions.

The #7 most frequent e-mail scam listed, for the week ending September 6, at the U.S. government’s site involves online sales.

The Bait: A response to your ad or online auction posting, offering to pay with a cashier’s, personal, or corporate check. At the last minute, the so-called buyer (or the buyer’s “agent”) comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price, and asks you to wire back the difference after you deposit the check. With horse transactions, the scam frequently involves asking that the overpayment be wired as payment to the transportation company that’s moving the animal.

The Catch: If you deposit the check, you lose. Typically, the checks are counterfeit, but they’re good enough to fool unsuspecting bank tellers and increase the balance in your bank account—temporarily. But when the check eventually bounces, you are liable for the entire amount. If you’ve paid the transportation company, you’re out that, too. And your horse is gone.

Your Safety Net: Don’t accept a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the purchase price. If the buyer sends the incorrect amount, return the check. Don’t send the merchandise—don’t ship the horse. As a seller who accepts payment by check, you may ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can visit personally to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank the check was drawn on using the phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the person who gave you the check. Ask if the check is valid.

Forward check overpayment scams to and your state Attorney General. You can find contact information for your state Attorney General at