Your Better Business Bureau warns consumers about the fake check scam that involves receiving a check and then involves sending money by wire transfer.
Phony checks typically involve victims depositing a check into their bank account and wiring back money to the scammers. Though a bank may accept the check for deposit, within a matter of weeks the check will bounce and the bank will withdraw funds from the consumer's account. The consumer has then lost the amount of the check, any additional bank charges and money sent by wire transfer to the con artist.
The Better Business Bureau President, Pat Rose, says the biggest red flag is any request to wire money to a stranger.
“Consumers have to ask themselves whether it makes any sense to wire money to someone who has sent them a check. Simply put, why would a stranger send you a check, and then ask to return a portion of the money. A local consumer believed she was a winner and was going to quit her job. Luckily, she called our office before quitting!”
The Consumer Federation of America reports nearly one third of adults surveyed have been targeted by a scammer trying to pass off fake checks and at least 1.3 million people have become victims, at an average cost of $3000 to $4000.
Printing technology is improving and it is almost impossible for consumers to determine by eye if the check is a fake, even if it has watermarks. The best way to avoid getting stung by check scams is to understand the most common forms of counterfeit check operations.
The BBB identifies the three most prevalent fake check schemes:Lottery and Government Grant Scam
Targets of the scam receive a notice that they have won a lottery or qualify for a government grant. Included is a check for at least a partial payment, and they are told that in order to receive the rest of the money, they must deposit the check and wire back several thousand dollars, supposedly to cover taxes or administrative fees. Overpayment Scam
The victim is selling an item through a newspaper or online classified ad. A buyer shows interest, sends a check for more than the amount of the item, says it was a mistake and asks the seller to send a wire transfer for the amount of the overpayment to a selected shipping company. The shipping company is, in fact the scammer.Mystery Shopping Scam
The victim receives a letter along with a check and instructions on how to make a few hundred dollars by working for a company that provides undercover “secret” or “mystery” shopping evaluations for businesses. The victim is instructed to deposit the check and use the money to buy from specific stores and evaluate the customer service. The rest of the money is theirs to keep. Among the list of companies to evaluate is Western Union or MoneyGram, and the victim is told to wire as much as several thousand dollars back to the “employer” and rate the customer service.
Finally, don’t be fooled by a telephone call. Just because you have spoken with the scammer over the phone does not mean they are not trying to cheat you. The perpetrators are experts at trying to gain your confidence.
More information on avoiding common scams can be found at www.bbb.org.