Accommodation providers such as bed & breakfasts and motels should be careful when dealing with overseas bookings via email.
The overpayment ruse goes something like this. The accommodation provider receives an email from a person who claims to be arranging a conference in the area.
The scammer requests a quote for accommodation for a large number of people, often a church-based delegation.
Through a series of emails, the scammer hooks the trader’s interest. The scammer then offers a cheque hundreds or thousands of dollars more than the accommodation cost and requests the provider refund the difference.
The scammer comes up with a plausible excuse:
There was a mix-up and the wrong amount was sent;
Some guests had cancelled and the scammer wants a partial refund;
The cheque includes their commission for arranging the conference;
The money order was originally made out to another accommodation provider charging a higher rate but this fell through.
The cheque bounces and the accommodation provider is left hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars out of pocket.
The scammer relies on the provider being so excited about the large booking that they do not question it too closely and want be as helpful as possible to keep their new “client” happy.
The scammer relies on banks taking time to clear an overseas cheque so that the provider is not alerted to the fraud until after they have “refunded” the difference.
Sometimes the payment is made through a third party or escrow company which turns out to be bogus.