By Linda Vitale – Lead Trainer and Educator AARP Arizona Fraud Watch Network
Here’s how to recognize the signs of a Check Scam. You receive a check or money order. The sender asks you to deposit it into your bank account and then wire most of the money back. You are instructed to keep a small portion of the money for yourself – as a “Thank You” or as “Payment” for helping them out.
U.S. Postal Inspectors have been warning about this scam for years! Although the offer may sound enticing, as usual, it’s just too good to be true! In fact, the check you received will be 100% counterfeit and you’ll be out any money you wire back.
The scammer’s ‘pitch’ usually stays the same, but the scam appears in the following typical disguises:
- You’re overpaid for an item you sold on the internet and are asked to wire-transfer back the extra dollars.
- You receive a notification that you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. NOTE: Playing a Foreign Lottery is illegal in the U.S.! The scammer sends you a partial-payment of your winnings and tells you to deposit it and wire-transfer back a percentage of the money back to them to “cover the taxes owed”. The scam artist tells you that you’ll receive the balance of your winnings, once they receive the tax money you wired.
- You apply for and are hired for a work-at-home job that promises you that “in return for depositing a money order or check in your bank account, you can keep a percentage of the money, but you need to wire the rest of it back to them”.
As you can see, from the examples above, regardless of the ‘pitch’ the result is the same. The check or money order you received for deposit – is a fake. Eventually, it will be returned by the bank “Unpaid” and the full amount will be deducted from your account. You will be out the money you wired to the scammer. Once you wire money, you can never get it back!
You are responsible for any check or money order you deposit to your account. So, you are fully responsible for the loss, even though you were a victim of this scam. Why? Federal law requires banks to make deposited funds available within 1-5 business days. Just because you withdraw cash from your account, after making the deposit, doesn’t mean the item you deposited is valid.
Realize that it can be weeks later before a check or money order is discovered to be counterfeit and return as “Unpaid”. Bank employees are not able to immediately determine whether an item you deposited is invalid.
If you believe you’ve been a victimized by this type of scam, report it immediately to your local Postal Inspection Service office by calling 877-876-2455.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is a go-to resource for the latest breaking scam alerts, delivered right to your inbox. Awareness is one of the best weapons against Scams and Fraud!
Linda Vitale is on a mission to empower and educate the public about Fraud, Scams and ID Theft.