Calgary senior on hook for bounced cheque after online sale gone wrong

A Calgary senior is warning others after being left on the hook for thousands of dollars because of an online scammer who sent him a fraudulent cheque.

Wendell Burgoyne told Global News he recently listed a concrete saw for sale online. A buyer, who said he was from California, reached out and made an offer, also telling Burgoyne he would pay to have it shipped.

The buyer sent a cheque for $3,500 — $1,200 for the saw; $2,300 to cover shipping charges.

The 70-year-old man told the buyer he would not release the item until the cheque was cleared by his bank. He then deposited the cheque, which was put on hold by RBC. Eight days later, he went to withdraw the money required to pay for the shipping.

“He (the bank representative) said: ‘Yeah, it cleared. Here’s your $2,300.’”

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Once it cleared, the buyer then instructed him to take that cash to another bank to pay the trucker who was going to pick up the saw.

The saw was never picked up. Burgoyne said he then got a surprise a few weeks later, when he was checking his bank statements.

“I got a minus $3,500 on my personal account,” he said. “They (the bank) said: ‘Well, the cheque is no good, it came back.’”

Burgoyne questioned how the cheque could have bounced when it had already cleared.

“They had four days, actually eight days, to check that cheque out,” he said. “We all think we’re insured and covered. We’re not. We’re hanging out there on a flagpole.”

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Global News reached out to the Ombudsman For Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), which helps resolve disputes between consumers and financial services firms.

Sarah Bradley, Ombudsman and CEO of OBSI, said this is a very common scam and there is little banks can do about it.

“This is a real problem with using cheques, with receiving cheques, particularly from people that you don’t know very well,” she said. “There is always a risk that cheque is going to get reversed.

“There is always a risk that it could be a forgery.”

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Bradley added banks have the right to reverse cheques that have bounced back to the person who deposited them.

“Banks have the ability to reverse cheques for days, for weeks, for months, after the cheque has cleared.”

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Burgoyne said he was told banks could reverse cheques years later, which Bradley said was rare.

“Usually if a cheque is going to get reversed, it will be reversed in the first 30 to 60 days.”

Burgoyne countered banks should then be required to verify the cheque before clearing it. He added he phoned the company on the cheque and was able to find out quickly that it was a fake.

Watch: Calgarian almost scammed out of thousands by fake cheque scam

Bradley said while banks follow certain processes, it would be difficult to catch every forged cheque.

“There are millions and millions of cheques a day written and cashed in Canada,” she added. “It really is not possible for every cheque to be reviewed.”

How to protect yourself

Bradley said ideally people should not accept cheques from strangers. She suggested anyone selling a product or offering a service instead:

  • Consider other forms of payment (cash, e-transfer)
  • Ask for a bank draft or certified cheque

“But above all, if someone sends you money — somebody that you don’t know very well — never ever send money back to them.”

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“When you send that money back, it’s gone.”

Global News also reached out to RBC.

In a statement, a spokesperson said:

“We realize that any time someone is impacted by fraud or scams, it can be a difficult and stressful situation for them. We consider each situation on a case-by-case basis. In this instance, we will be offering to reimburse the client as a goodwill gesture.”

Burgoyne told Global News he is grateful to get his money back, he just wishes he hadn’t had to fight with the bank for something he still believes was not his fault.

“I’m just about done dealing with banks,” he added. “I’m going to go back to the coffee can in the backyard. It’s ridiculous.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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