Watch Out For Fake Check Scams!
By Gregory E. Niemeyer, North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine
There’s a new scam making the rounds – and this one involves fake checks. It’s hard to believe here in the age of online banking, but this one has been pretty successful and can end up costing you thousands of dollars.
How does this scam work? Simply put, beware of anyone who wants to write you a check for more than they owe and then ask you to wire them the excess back.
There are many variations on this particular theme. For example, someone might approach you to:
- Purchase something from you that has been advertised as being for sale.
- Pay you to work out of your house.
- Award you an advance on some sweepstakes or contest that you’ve won.
- Give you the first payment of “millions” you will potentially receive for participating in a transfer of money in a foreign country. This sounds far-fetched, but it has consistently surfaced lately, especially in email.
Often, the thieves will tell you that they are in a foreign country, and because of all the red tape, it’s too hard to wire you the money directly. So they’ll have someone who owes them money in the U.S. send you a check.
However they try to get a check to you, the catch is that the check will be for more than the amount they initially told you. Naturally, they will want you to deposit it and then wire the difference to them. Or they will explain it away as being “fees” or some other reason to return it to them. Whatever way they do it, though, the end result is that their check bounces after you’ve wired them their “part” of the money.
Check forgeries have become quite the art form. Even bank tellers can sometimes be fooled by legitimate-looking cashier’s checks and business account checks. Company logos and other check attributes can be “dummied up” so that they look real. And remember, banks make your deposits available for withdrawal faster and faster these days, so just because you can actually get the money from your account after depositing the check doesn’t necessarily mean the check is good. It can often take weeks to catch a forged check.
Fake check scammers do their homework. They find ads in the paper and on the Internet, look for people with items to sell and even check postings on job search websites. They also reel victims in by sending random emails and faxes and placing their own ads. Like a cagey fisherman, they have the attitude that the more fishing lines you throw out, the more bites you’ll get.
Rely on your common sense. Is there really any legitimate reason that someone you don’t know would give you money just to ask for part of it back immediately? No. At the very least, you should insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, drawn from a trusted bank. And even then, ask yourself: why is a stranger trying to give me money?
Remember the old cliché: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
To learn more, or if you suspect you are being targeted for a fake check scam, contact the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center at www.fraud.org or give them a call at 1-800-876-7060.
Author Gregory E. Niemeyer is the executive vice president at North Dallas Bank & Trust Co.