10 Online Scams That Target Small Businesses

The accidental overpayment scam existed before the Internet and has made its way into the digital age. © Jessica Peterson/Tetra Images/Corbis

The overpayment scam is another time-honored classic that's made a successful leap to the online world. It goes like this: A business (usually a small, seemingly vulnerable one) receives a check from a buyer, usually of a big-ticket item. But suddenly there's a hitch — the buyer has mistakenly written the check for more than the correct amount. To avoid the trouble of writing another check, the buyer asks that the check be deposited and the difference wired back to them. We all know where this is going, right? The check bounces, the wire transfer is gone, the scammer is untraceable and the business owner is also responsible for bank fees.

Overpayment scams are pretty easy to avoid with just a few safeguards. There are so many warning signs with these cons that you should be able to stop things before they start. A no-check policy would instantly solve the problem, and it's also best to steer clear of wire transfers. If you must accept checks for some reason, always ask for all of the buyer's contact information and then double-check — or, better yet, deal with them in person and ask for a check from a local bank. Wait for checks to clear before you use any of the funds and, above all, never accept a check for more than the agreed-upon amount.