Confidence tricks like advance fee fraud, 419 Fraud, Nigerian Email Scam, Spanish Prisoner, etc, etc, have been bilking money out of naive individuals for at least 100 years. Over time, these scams have become increasingly sophisticated, utilizing email to communicate with marks, convincing them that if they deposit a check, and return a portion of the balance to the author of the email, they will be rewarded by being allowed to keep the remaining balance.
Now, a new spin on these scams targets website owners, by asking to buy text or graphical ads. Typically, site owners have been contacted by email, and offered 4 or 5 figure dollar amounts for placing ads on their site. A check is sent, which is “accidentally” written for more than the contracted price, and site owners are asked to send back the balance. Unfortunately, these checks ultimately end up being fake or stolen, and the money eventually ends up being taken back by the bank.
The best way to protect yourself from these types of scams is to avoid doing business with people that contact you via unsolicited email messages. If you’re not sure, it’s probably best to say no. If you’d like to investigate an offer further, contact the company who says they would like to place ads directly, to ask about the validity of the email. If you do end up engaging in a transaction like this for ads, use paypal and avoid checks or wire transfers unless you are dealing with a trusted repeat customer. According to a post I read the other day, waiting until a check has “cleared” will not protect you from being scammed. In the event that stolen checking account information is used, it may be months before the company or individual the info was stolen from realizes what has happened. Once they do, they will report the fraud, and you’ll be out the money.