Consumer Frauds and Scams
Most scams take advantage of the fact that the bank often must make deposited funds available to you before the deposited check is known to be fraudulent. Keep in mind that when you deposit or cash a check, you are basically acknowledging that you believe it is a good check and that it will be paid by the person who wrote it. If the check turns out to be a counterfeit, you will be responsible to pay back the bank for the full amount.
Con artists increasingly use counterfeit cashier’s checks, money orders, and other official bank checks because consumers trust them. If you receive a questionable check, our customer service personnel can help you verify whether it is a fraud.
Be aware of scams like the ones listed below. Additional information can also be found at www.fakechecks.org. If you receive a similar offer, remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam.
The Lottery Scam
You receive a large check, along with a letter stating that you have won a lottery, usually located in a foreign country. The instructions tell you to deposit the check and wire a portion of it back to cover fees or taxes on your winnings. By the time the check is returned as a counterfeit, you have already wired the money from your account. You will be responsible for the total amount of the check. Keep in mind that it is against the laws of the United States to buy or sell lottery tickets across the border, so any letter claiming that you have won a foreign lottery is a scam.
The Internet Purchase Scam
You sell an item on the internet, but the buyer sends you a check for an amount greater than the purchase price. The buyer asks you to wire back the extra amount. By the time the check is returned as a counterfeit, you have already wired the money from your account. You will be responsible to pay back the full amount of the check. If you sell on the internet, only accept checks for the exact amount of the purchase. Request a cashier’s check rather than a personal check, but remember that even a cashier’s check is not a guarantee of authenticity.
The On-line Love Scam
You’ve met someone special on-line, but he or she has a problem. They live in a foreign country and have a check in US dollars that they aren’t able to cash. Or they claim to have a medical or other emergency, and need your help getting a check cashed. Or they promise to come to the US to be with you, and need you to cash a check to cover travel expenses. If you agree to cash the check, you will be responsible for the entire amount when it turns out to be counterfeit. You should never cash a check for someone, unless it is a family member or a person you have known for a long time.
The Work-at-Home Scam
You’re promised easy money for working at home. All you have to do is process payments: your employer will send you checks which you deposit into your account. You then wire them the money minus your “pay”. You’re responsible for the full amount when the checks turn out to be counterfeit. Legitimate businesses don’t work this way; they deposit payments into their own account.
The Mystery Shopper Scam
You are sent a large check to cash, so that you can return the funds in order to “test” a wire transfer service. Or, you are asked to buy a few small items at a store, and send back the remaining money. In either case, the check is counterfeit, and you will need to pay the money back.
If you’re age 60 or older, you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by phone. Telemarketing fraud is a multi-billion dollar business in the US; every year consumers lose anywhere from a few dollars to their life savings to telephone con artists. You’re encouraged to be skeptical when you receive a telephone solicitation. To eliminate most telemarketing calls, you can sign up for the free National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. Or call 888-382-1222 from the phone number (home phone or cell phone) you want to register.