Tutoring Overpayment Scams

Tutoring overpayment scams are a variation on the common "check overpayment" scam. Essentially, someone posing as a customer overpays the tutor with a fraudulent check and then asks to be refunded the "extra" payment.

Scammers target students and tutors with email, texts, and other communications, often in response to ads posted on message boards and websites where people seek or offer tutoring. Some scammers have been known to contact professors seeking tutor referrals for their students.

What Is a Check Overpayment Scam?

This type of scam takes advantage of the time delay between a check being deposited and that check being fully cleared by your bank. That delay can be as long as several weeks. In a check overpayment scam: 

  • The scammer makes an agreement with you to purchase a service such as tutoring. The scammer often tells you they do not live locally and perhaps claims to be seeking short-term tutoring for a relative who will be in your area.
  • They send what appears to be a legitimate cashier's check or check drawn on an existing bank, only the amount is for more than your agreed-upon fee. The scammer gives some reason for doing this (often a need to get the money to the U.S.) and says they will trust you to return the extra.
  • Depositing the check causes your bank to credit your account, and you appear to have been paid. 
  • The scammer will ask you to send the overpayment amount, through a wire transfer, gift card,  or other immediate means.
  • When your bank finishes processing the check, it finds out that the check has bounced and removes the originally credited amount from your account.
  • You lose the money you "returned" to the scammer.

Protect Yourself

To avoid being a victim of check overpayment tutoring scams:

  • Use caution when advertising tutoring or other services. Public ads, especially online ads, can be viewed by criminals as well as real customers.
  • Work with known, trusted sources, such as your school or college, or reputable organizations that provide academic assistance.
  • Be skeptical of communication from persons you do not know.
  • Be skeptical of any communication asking you to act in an urgent manner.
  • Never take payment above what you are charging for your services.
  • If you need to refund money to someone, verify with your bank that any check or payment has been fully cleared before making the refund.

More Information

For more information about overpayment scams, see: