BBB warns Hoosier businesses of overpayment scams

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Better Business Bureau is warning Indiana business owners of overpayment scams after they say an Indianapolis business was targeted.

The BBB says First Serve Cleaning and Restoration reached out to them about recent scam attempts.

“Todd Francis, owner of First Serve Cleaning and Restoration, told BBB that since the COVID-19 crisis began, his businesses has been targeted by scammers on several occasions,” the BBB said in a press release. “Todd has received several quote requests and orders for his company’s power washing services. Each request for service involved a consumer who told Todd that he would not be present at the time of service.

“Something about the communication didn’t sit right with Todd, so he decided to do some investigating. He found that each of these requests involved vacant properties listed as ‘For Sale.’ In addition, some of the requests just didn’t make sense. Several of the homes were made of brick, a material not often cleaned through pressure washing. When Todd investigated an order he received to pressure wash a driveway, he found it was made of asphalt. Asphalt is typically damaged by power washing treatments. Each of the prospective customers refused to speak over the phone. When Todd confronted one of them and accused them of being a scammer, the ‘customer’ became aggressive and told Todd that he ‘hopes you catch the coronavirus.'”

The bureau went on to say the scammers were likely aiming to conduct a overpayment scam, in which the scammers purposefully overpay a business for their service through a check or credit card payment before requesting a refund of the amount overpaid, likely through a wire transfer. Eventually, it would come to light that the credit card used was stolen or the check would bounce, likely leaving the businesses liable for the lost funds. 

“Businesses are not immune to the deceitful attempts of liars, scammers and cheats,” said BBB Central Indiana President and CEO Tim Maniscalo in a release. “Scammers prey on anyone, especially unsuspecting targets, like a business. It’s imperative to empower yourself to know the signs of a scam so you can protect your identity and money.” 

BBB TIPS TO AVOID OVERPAYMENT SCAMS: 

  • Know who you’re dealing with – independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address, and telephone number. 
  • Never agree to wire back funds to a buyer — a legitimate buyer will not pressure you to do so, and you have limited recourse if there is a problem with a wire transfer. 
  • If you’re selling something over the Internet, say “no” to a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. 
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the check is legitimate.  
  • There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. Never agree to send money back to someone who claims to have overpaid you. 

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