Below is an excerpt from a podcast script I came across, which talks about how you can fall for scam through emails and messages, and I don't understand the "check" reference they mentioned.

This is something I would say to my mom. "Beware there's this scam out there. Don't fall for it." I actually tested my parents once. Because they were selling something on craigslist, I sent them an email that said, "hey, I wanna buy it, I'll send you this check for more, if you can refund me the difference"... and my parents fell for it!

I'm having difficulty understanding the part in bold, especially "for more", and "the difference." I want to write more specific questions, but I'm not sure how to elaborate it. "for more" (what)? What does "difference" indicate? Maybe it's not about the words but about how checks work in the US that I'm not familiar of, but I'm completely lost interpreting this sentence.

  • 4
    It's an overpayment scam. Once you understand the scam, the meaning of the words should be obvious.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 20, 2022 at 22:58
  • 1
    From M-W: check (or cheque): "a written order directing a bank to pay money as instructed"
    – gotube
    Jul 21, 2022 at 0:36
  • 1
    This is a variation on the Nigerian scam. I'll leave you to look that up.
    – Lambie
    Jul 21, 2022 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


A cheque (or check in American English) is a written instruction telling your bank to pay someone the amount of money specified. The idea of the scam here is that the parents were selling an item; let's say that they had listed the item as costing £100. The buyer says I will pay for the item with a £200 cheque (i.e. a cheque that is "for more" money than the item is listed at), but please refund me the difference. So, the buyer gives the parents the £200 cheque, they give the buyer both the item and an extra £100 (the "difference" between the listed price of the item, and the amount on the cheque). However, and this is where the scam part comes in, after the parents have put the cheque into the bank, the cheque will "bounce" (that is, there won't be enough funds in the buyer's bank account to pay the amount on the cheque), so the parents will be left without the money from the cheque, and also down the £100 they gave to the buyer.

  • Thank you. So you go to the bank, give a clerk the check, it will bounce, and there's no way for you to get the money you're supposed to have? That easy? What does the bank do?
    – dbwlsld
    Jul 21, 2022 at 9:00
  • 1
    @dbwlsld The bank says "Sorry, this check is no good." That's all. It is not their fault someone wrote you a fraudulent check. This is why many people don't like accepting checks, and they are falling out of favor.
    – stangdon
    Jul 21, 2022 at 11:39
  • 1
    The bank will also most likely charge you a fee because they had to deal with a bounced cheque. The payer's bank will charge them a fee too, but the scam artist is probably using stolen bank details anyway, so they don't care.
    – Showsni
    Jul 21, 2022 at 19:49

As @Stuart_F has mentioned in the comments, it is an overpayment scam, where the scammer gives your a generous amount of money, and will later ask you to refund the excess money back to them, but you won't get it back! So the narrator's parents fell for this scam.

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