In another updated scam, the scammer offers to buy some expensive item (e.g., jewelry or a car, that the prospective victim advertised on eBay, for example, or a legitimate classified-ads website such as craigslist) by official, certified, bank or cashier’s check. The check will have an “accidentally” or mutually agreed higher value than the price of the item, so the scammer asks the victim to wire the extra money to some third party as soon as the check clears. Because banks in the USA are required by law to honor a check within 1-5 working days (even before a check has cleared), they will report the proceeds as available for withdrawal before the check is presented to the issuing bank for clearance and the fraud is discovered. Most banks will hold the victim accountable for the value of the counterfeit check.
The most common characteristics of the scam are that the scammer wishes the seller to end the item listing immediately, and that they insist on paying by either personal check, cashier’s check or money order with a value higher than the cost plus shipping of the item. EBay auctions with a “Buy It Now” option are therefore favorite targets, as the scammer can simply choose that option to remove the listing, and can then pressure the seller by reminding them that they are now obligated by a binding contract to sell the item. This is not true, since the seller has ample evidence of attempt to defraud making the contract null and void. The easiest way to avoid such overpayment scams is therefore not to offer a Buy It Now option on eBay auctions. In ordinary eBay auctions and Craigslist ads the scammer is forced to ask the seller to end the listing and accept their payment terms, a request which the seller can easily ignore. The scammer does have the option of bidding on auction items; because the check they’ll use is fake, the amount of their bid can be whatever is necessary to win. However, this exposes the scammer, who may have hijacked the account, to possible discovery before winning the item, making this an unpopular method of running the scam.
It used to be common practice for the scammer to have the item shipped to the scammer’s home country, such as Nigeria, where it would be sold on the black market. This is however becoming less common as sellers have refused to ship overseas, or have specifically excluded the Western African countries where the scams proliferate. In almost all cases, the scammer simply wants the money from the overpayment. The scam is now typically run using a “drop”; a U.S. or otherwise local address where scammers can have packages sent. This makes spotting a scam based on the shipping address difficult if not impossible. This drop is often the address of another victim, such as that of a romance scam, that the scammer can manipulate into receiving their packages. Certain items are themselves valuable to the scammer; common tools of the scammers’ trade are laptops, cell phones, scanners, digital cameras and laser printers. Other items the scammer may desire include televisions, video game consoles, digital video cameras and other expensive electronics that can be used by the scammer or sold to others. In these cases the scammer may instruct the drop to forward the item, otherwise the scammer will simply tell the drop to hold the package until they can collect it (which will probably never happen). Items are often bought without overpayment and sent to drops; however, these are usually the result of identity theft and, because the scammer is receiving no overpayment, do not fit the description of advance fee fraud.
A variation on the eBay scam involves sending a request for payment for an item that the alleged seller does not own but the scammer claims they have sent. Since actual eBay item numbers are used this has been a nuisance for legitimate sellers.
Source : wikipedia