AG DeWine warns of scams

December 22, 2013

Bob Strickley

PDT Content Manager

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine this week warned independent sales consultants and at-home sellers to beware of scam artists posing as hearing-impaired customers in a twist to the counterfeit check scam.

“During this busy time of year, we want to warn those who sell products that some scam artists are pretending to be customers,” DeWine said. “If anyone places an order and sends you a check for more than the cost of the products, the check is likely counterfeit and the customer is likely a con artist.”

The Attorney General’s Office has received seven recent reports of scams targeting consultants in Clermont, Delaware, Franklin, Gallia, Lorain, Lucas, and Union counties. Consultants who have reported the scams sell baskets, cosmetics, or candle products, but any sellers could be at risk.

The scammers are essentially writing a check more than the asking price of the product and then asking the consultant to mail the difference back. Only later does the company realize the initial check was fraudulent.

The scam typically begins when a sales consultant receives an email from a “customer” who wants to place an order. The customer often says she is hearing impaired and unable to use a credit card. Instead, the customer sends the sales consultant a check, which is made out for more than the cost of the order.

Before the check has cleared, the customer asks the sales consultant to send back the difference, usually via wire transfer or money order. Ultimately, the customer’s check will be returned as counterfeit and any money or products the consultant sends will be lost.

Sales consultants should watch for signs of a scam, including:

• New customers who make contact unexpectedly by phone or email;

• New customers who say, in their initial contact, that they are hearing impaired;

• Customers who say they can only pay via check;

• Claims of urgency, or customers who say their check must be deposited right away;

• Overpayment (or a check made out for more than the price of the order);

• Requests for wire transfers, money orders, or prepaid money cards;

• Poor grammar in email messages;

• Customers who want the products to be sent to someone else.

Attorney General DeWine reminded all Ohioans that counterfeit checks and overpayment are common in many variations of scams.

Anyone who suspects a scam or unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.

Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 296, or bstrickley@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Bob on Twitter @rjstrickleyjr.