Goldhawk Fights Back: Be Suspicious about Cheques from Abroad

This is a weekly column by Dale Goldhawk, Canada’s best-known consumer advocate. A journalist, author and broadcaster, Dale hosts Goldhawk Fights Back For You, on AM 740 or at AM740 ZoomerRadio, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 1 pm, in the eastern time zone. Visit his website at

When Susan wanted to rent out a room in her house to a student, she advertised on the Mohawk College off-campus housing website in Ontario.

She got a reply from a young woman in Liverpool, England. The woman wanted to rent the room but said she couldn’t come to Canada right away. She asked if Susan could put a hold on the room and said she would send a cheque for $2,900 to reserve the space. The student asked Susan to e-mail her father, once the cheque arrived by mail.

When the cheque did arrive, Susan e mailed the father at the e-mail address supplied by his daughter. The very next day, Susan got an e-mail from the father expressing some consternation. The $2,900 amount was supposed to cover some of the rent and the air fare for the daughter to travel to Canada.

The father apologized profusely for the confusion and asked if Susan could send $1,900 by Western Union, so his daughter could buy her ticket. Susan complied, thinking she still had a $1,000 deposit on the room.

Then a day later, the student e-mailed Susan to say she was not coming to Canada after all. Changed her mind. And then about a week after that, the cheque bounced. End of scam. It all happened within a few short days and Susan is $1,900 poorer.

Susan told me in an e mail: I am a single person, with limited resources and a lot of bills. I did not have enough money in my account to cover the NSF check. I called the police and I was told it was a common scam and there was nothing they could do. She advised me to call Phonebusters. My banker was very sympathetic, but the bank manager would not even give me a month to replace the funds.

I called the College and spoke to the person who organized the ads so she could warn other people. She said she was very aware of the scam and in fact was almost a victim herself. I asked her why this was not mentioned in the package I received when I placed the ad. She told me it was advertised on the web page.

I told her again that it should have been included in the package of information. The police did not only tell me that basically I was out of luck, but they were very abrupt and unsympathetic.

Unhappily, I had to tell Susan there was nothing we could do to help her at Goldhawk Fights Back. These crooks are totally anonymous and untraceable. This is a very old scam, now adapted to the internet.

There is a warning on the Mohawk college website: “Landlords, be aware of an ongoing fraud that has been circulating in the area. There are many variations but typically the fraudulent tenant offers to pay the landlord a sum of money on a cheque drawn on a foreign bank. The cheque arrives for more than the agreed upon amount and the landlord is asked to refund the difference. The initial cheque bounces and the landlord loses the money that they have paid as a refund.”

Touchless might be a good selling feature for a car wash so that new car does not get scratched. But it’s a dangerous financial transaction. Always make it your policy to deal with real people. And remember, a cheque is only a promise to pay, until it clears your bank account.

Photo © Nikolay Mamluke


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Dale GoldhawkGemini award nominee, journalist and broadcaster, Dale Goldhawk has earned Canada’s trust by his four decades of work exposing fraud and greed in the marketplace. To read more of his articles, go to (now part of the ZoomerMedia family of websites).

Don’t miss Goldhawk Fights Back , on the New AM740 Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.