Beware of Check Scammers!

Phony check scams can come to you in a variety of packages.  They can arrive by email, letter or by personal contact.  You may be approached by someone who is offering to buy an item that you advertised, a job offer for online work or a promise of a sweepstakes prize they claim you won.  Becoming aware of some of the tactics used by perpetrators hopefully will help potential victims to avoid being taken in by these scams.

 1.  Scammers diligently search for victims:  They may randomly send emails or make phone calls, knowing that at least some of their contacts will be vulnerable enough to fall victim.  They may also answer other people’s ads.  Keep in mind the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  Ignore the temptation to respond to the communication.

 2.  The scammer’s proposal may look something like this:  You are asked to sign up for an at home job through an internet site.  Later, after you sign up, the website may say they accidentally sent you a check for more than you actually earned.  They then ask you to wire the overage back to them.  Or if you are selling something, they’ll say someone who owes them money will send you a check for more than the purchase price.  You are instructed to deposit the check, keep the amount of the sale and wire the rest to the scammers.  Of course, the check is fraudulent and you are scammed the amount that you wire.

 3   Scammer’s checks are a fake:  Sometimes the checks appear to be legitimate, but keep in mind, no honest person is going to send a check and ask you to wire back part of it.  Report any phony check scams to a law enforcement agency.  If the bad check is deposited, it may take more than a week for the bank to discover that the check is a fake. By then the criminal has received your wired money and you are stuck for any checks written against the deposit.  Detection can be difficult.  Some phony checks look very real.

 4.  Don’t deposit a suspect check:  Report it to an anti fraud agency.  If you do deposit a fraudulent check and draw funds on it, your bank deems you responsible.  The burden is on you since you should have been aware of the situation.  When you accept a check for payment from someone you don’t know, always ask for a cashier’s check for the exact amount.

 The best way to avoid becoming a victim of the many and varied kinds of check fraud schemes is to become educated about the tactics used by devious scammers.  The more that is known, the less successful the scammers will be.