[CLICK HERE to see larger image of the sample check] In times of financial hardship, as people struggle to pay their mortgage, put gas in their vehicle or simply stay warm during winter months...when we hear news of instability in the stock market, home foreclosures and people losing their jobs — marketplace issues that drive consumers to desperation give con-artists a perfect opportunity to take advantage of those in need.
Email, telephone and mail solicitations contain more and more offers enticing consumers to make poor financial decisions, and con-artists are flooding every U.S. market with fake check scams. What is a fake check scam? It is a fast-growing fraud that could cost you thousands of dollars. There are many types of fake check scams, but it all starts when someone gives you a realistic looking check or money order and asks you to send cash somewhere in return. It’s phony, and so is the person’s story, but that may take weeks to discover.
Now your bank wants the money back. Just because you can obtain the cash doesn’t mean the check or money order is good as it can take several weeks for the bank to receive notification that the check was fraudulent. Ultimately, you are responsible for the checks or money orders you deposit or cash.
Here are a few examples of check scams:
- Mystery Shopper Scam: With a new spin on an old scam, mystery shoppers are being recruited to 'shop' local retailers and their service desk where money grams are purchased. Scammers posing as a legitimate Mystery Shopping company send out checks asking the 'shopper' to deposit the check (usually for several thousand dollars) into their personal checking accounts and use the funds to perform the shopping services. The scam occurs when the shopper is instructed to purchase a money gram with a portion of the deposited funds and send the money gram to the Mystery Shopping Company. Of course it turns out that the deposited check is counterfeit and the consumer is left with an over drafted bank account.
- Sudden Riches: They say you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstake offer, but that’s impossible unless you traveled to a foreign country to enter since it’s illegal to buy or sell foreign lottery tickets across the border. They’ll provide you with a fraudulent check claiming to cover taxes and insurance asking you to wire the funds to a foreign country. If you’ve won a prize or lottery you should NEVER have to pay fees in advance.
- Work-At-Home: They promise easy money working at home. They ask you to process payments by depositing checks and sending them the money minus your ‘pay.’ If it was this easy wouldn’t we all be working in our pajamas? Real companies don’t do business in this manner.
- Foreign Business Offers: They promise you millions and the offers come in many varieties, from many countries, but none of the promises come true. They pretend to be business people or government officials. Real companies and government agencies don’t contact strangers in other countries to offer business propositions.
- Nigerian Scams: An email claims you are named the beneficiary of a will to inherit an estate worth millions. Your personal financial information is needed to ‘prove’ that you are the beneficiary and to speed the transfer of your inheritance. They use your financial information to drain your bank account and commit many other forms of ID Theft.
- Overpayments: They don’t really want the merchandise – they want your money. They offer overpayments on items you advertised in the classifieds or an online auction. They claim they sent the wrong amount by mistake and ask you to deposit the check in your account and return the excess to them.
So, you ask “Is this check for real?” Calls and complaints to our Middle Tennessee BBB offices suggest there are literally thousands of con-artists and thieves hoping their victims won’t pause long enough to ask that question. These are but a few of the many examples of this scam that have been reported right here in our market. Be sure to contact your BBB and inquire about offers before you do business!
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