Scams involving fake checks come in many different forms. Every day the Better Business Bureau receives calls from consumers about scammers requesting payment via wire transfer, prepaid debit cards, Green Dot MoneyPak cards, and even iTunes gift cards. The BBB urges consumers to be skeptical anytime you are asked to send a portion of a check back to the sender or related party.
Regardless of the method used, the end result is the same — the victim is left with less money in their account and they could even be held responsible for overdraft charges and face charges for fraudulent checks.
A fake check scheme occurs when a consumer receives and cashes what appears to be a legitimate check. The scammer requests a portion of the funds sent back to the sender or other related party. Within days, the consumer finds that the check was fake when the bank begins the process of reclaiming those funds from the consumer. Meanwhile, the scammer is nowhere to be found.
Some of the most common overpayment scams include the following:
Car wrap scam: Scammers place ads on the internet or send mass emails to attract people looking for extra money. They claim they will pay you to wrap your car with advertisements for well-known companies.
Lottery or sweepstakes scam: You receive an unsolicited check or money order advising you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes. The instructions tell you to deposit the funds and wire a certain amount of money to cover the cost of some fees like processing or taxes.
Work-from-home scams: Watch out for “employers” offering big pay for little experience and minimal effort. Exercise extreme caution when considering job offers that involve any transmission of money or re-shipping of products. In addition to potentially significant financial loss, acting on these offers also puts you in danger of unwittingly violating local, state and even federal laws.
Property rental scams: Some scammers hijack a legitimate rental, real estate or vacation rental listing and photos. They may even list places that don’t exist. They ask the potential renter to send the security deposit or first month’s rent via an uncommon form of payment, then disappear with the money.
The BBB reminds consumers of the following tips to avoid fake check scams:
Confirm before you withdraw. If you’re relying on a deposit to come through, you should confirm it’s cleared before spending those funds. A check can take several days to clear, and until it does, you are responsible for any funds withdrawn against it.
Know who you’re dealing with. Independently, confirm the buyer/seller/donor name, street address and telephone number.
Never give personal information to someone you don’t know. Do not share personally identifiable information such as date of birth, bank or credit card accounts, passwords, Social Security number, etc. with anyone you do not know.
You can’t win a sweepstakes you didn’t enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a sweepstakes or lottery. Whether it’s by phone or mail, scammers seek out their targets.
Watch for unusual methods of payment. Be cautious if they ask you to send money via wire transfer, prepaid card or iTunes gift cards. Remember, once you’ve sent it, it’s gone.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.