The scam works like this: the thief uses a credit card or online payment account such as PayPal to make a large donation through the non-profit’s online donation page. He then contacts the organization and says the amount was a mistake. For example, a $5,000 donation was meant to be only a $500 donation. He asks the organization to refund the difference, typically to a different account than the one used to make the donation. Sometimes the scammer claims the original account had to be closed for security or other reasons.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says, “My office has warned individual Idahoans for a several years to be wary of offers to overpay for advertised goods or services. More recently, we have received reports of a variation on that theme targeting non-profits that receive donations online.”
Characteristics of scam donations include unusually large donations, unusual donor demographics (such as donations made from outside the usual geographic location of most donors), grammatical errors in the refund requests, and the supposed closure of the donor account which then necessitates the refund be made to a different one, he says.
Non-profit organization that receive questionable donations should contact their credit card processor, the credit card issuer from which the donation was made, and, if known, the issuer of the card to which the “refund” was requested.
Dale Dixon, CEO for BBB serving Snake River Region, says “Do not use the contact information provided by the phony donor. Research and find the information separately.”
BBB offers the following advice to business owners to help find and avoid overpayment scams:
- Know who you’re dealing with. Ask for and verify the buyer’s name, street address and telephone number.
- Don’t accept a check for more than the purchase price of the product or service. If the buyer refuses to pay the correct amount, return the payment and do not send the merchandise.
- Don’t assume that the check is legitimate, just because your bank accepts it for deposit. It may take weeks for the bank to learn that it is counterfeit. You are the party who is ultimately liable to your financial institution.
- Verify all accounts, checks, money orders and credit cards with the issuing bank. Ask for the name and place and then get phone number from directory assistance or a trustworthy Web site, not from the person who gave you the check. You may want to ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch.
- If a customer objects to providing any of the information requested, explain that these rules are for their protection, as well.
- If the customer still refuses to say, abandon the conversation and recommend that you are not ready to do business this way.
Suspicious donations can also be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at: http://www.ic3.gov.