Intricate scam nearly drained Watervliet family’s bank account

Check scam leaves family deep in debt

An elaborate scam that's below your radar can easily take thousands of your dollars if you're not aware of it. This scam hit a Watervliet couple's bank account so hard, it left them deep in debt.

An elaborate scam that’s below your radar can easily take thousands of your dollars if you’re not aware of it. This scam hit a Watervliet couple’s bank account so hard, it left them deep in debt.

Even a local police station told 13Investigates they’ve never seen a scam as elaborate as this one. 

Rebecca and William White of Watervliet live paycheck to paycheck. More than half of the U.S. is in the same boat, according to research.

Rebecca works for the state, but William was laid off in October. They’re also raising a daughter.

The couple decided to start their own small business in 2022, White House Painters, a lifelong dream for William.

“I’ve always wanted my own business. Always. And I love painting. I’ve been doing it for 20 years.”

The Whites said in the past, they had gotten painting jobs here and there but weren’t able to put any money away.

“When I’m not making that much working for the state, we needed to spend that money on bills and help provide. Our truck payment is $425 a month for the truck. We haven’t had any money to save. So that’s why we’re financially in distress,” Rebecca said. 

White House Painters is listed on Yelp. William was thrilled when he got a message from a potential customer.

“It was about 9 o’clock in the morning. I got a message from ’em. He asked me if I could paint a house for him because he and his wife are moving here from Connecticut,” William said. 

The message from the customer said, “Good day!… I got your number as a painter in Albany, NY. I need interior painting. Send your email so I can send details.

“I said (to William), ‘How do you feel about this?’ he said, ‘I feel good. Our family needs this money,’” Rebecca said. 

The house the customer told the Whites he bought was on Myrtle Avenue in Albany.

“I didn’t have any suspicion at that point because I looked it up, and it said the house had closed on Jan. 5. I was assuming, ‘OK, this is a legit job.'” Rebecca said.

“Everything sounded legit. Everything really did,” William said.

Trying to take every precaution, William did text back saying, “I hope this wasn’t a scam,” but the customer never responded.

“He started going on about the house and what needed to be done and how many bedrooms. I gave him a little estimate, and he sent a check that was over the estimate. Right then and there, I got a little confused,” William said. 

The customer wrote the check for $4,150. $1,000 more than what the Whites asked for.

He also gave the Whites specific instructions.

“You are to keep 50% of the check. The other 50% I will give you further instruction on who you need to pay for the paint supplier and also a furniture supplier is going to be delivering furniture because my wife doesn’t like my furniture,” Rebecca said. 

In a text message, the customer said: “You are to have the check deposited at your bank and once it clears, you are to deduct your 50% for labor and the rest of the funds are to be sent to the paint supplier agent which I will provide you with details.”

It all seemed a little odd, so William and Rebecca decided to go to their bank, Broadview, to make sure the check was legitimate. They said a teller gave the check all clear, so the Whites made the deposit.

As instructed by the customer, William said he sent $1,000. William said he was also told to send another $1,000 on Venmo for furniture delivery.

William said he thought he saw an opportunity.

“Because he kept calling me and telling me it had to be done at this time. When you’re done with the job, I’ll have more work for you because I’m in with vendors. … I have contacts with other business people. When I move to Albany, if I like your work, I’ll have more work for you. 

A few days later, William said he’d noticed something alarming in his Broadview bank account.

“I went to check my account, and it said cash back $4,150. I called. The bank said, ‘Yes, this check that was cashed was a fraudulent check.”

Now, William is starting to see the writing on the wall. He had not only sent half the money to vendors as instructed, but his 50% had already been used to pay bills.

“Now that I’m negative, I don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills or anything.” He said. “We have a 2-year-old baby girl. I haven’t slept in three days. I haven’t. I’m working my butt off to take care of her.”

“We’re not sleeping. We’re stressed out. My checks cover the rent and my car insurance, but I don’t know where to go from here. I really don’t,” Rebecca said. 

The couple did file a police report with Colonie Police. In a statement, the deputy chief said in part:

“We did meet with the White family and are investigating their report. Unfortunately, scams like this happen more often than you would think. The fact pattern in their scam was one that we have not seen before, and it seems that scammers are getting more and more creative in their methods. Anytime someone is being paid for a good or a service, and the other party wants to pay them more than the asking price, that should raise some level of suspicion- especially if you are asked to then distribute funds to other uninvolved third parties, ones that you do not know and have not met. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Rebecca decided to do some of her own investigating – she started with the FedEx envelope the check came in.

“I called the phone number that was on the FedEx envelope,” she said. “It was a 75-year-old man from Georgia and he said, ‘Let me guess? You got a package with my phone number on it. I said, ‘Yes I did.’ and he said, ‘So did you and everybody else in the United States.'” 

You may look at this scam and think you would never fall for this but wait until you hear how far this scammer went to get money.

Even the FBI tells 13Investigates that scammers are sophisticated in pulling off this hoax. That part of the story airs Wednesday, February 7 starting Live at 4.

Meantime, 13Investigates has received a lot of inquiries about wanting to help the White family. You can email

PART 2: FBI: Watervliet couple scammed out of $4,150 victim of the overpayment scam

PART 3: Watervliet couple gets some money back after falling victim to check fraud scam