It’s the con artists’ job to try to part you from your money and they continue to practice their line of work in new ways. One of their latest ploy that is meeting with success and you should be on the look-out for involves sending you a counterfeit check to you for you to deposit. Here’s how the scams work:
You receive an unexpected check for a sizable amount of money in the mail saying that you’ve won some contest (which you never even entered). In order to claim your prize, all you need to do is deposit the check in your bank account, then wire a portion of the funds back to the contest officials to cover your taxes and fees.
The key to this scam is how real the check appears – it looks nothing like one of those old Publisher’s Clearinghouse checks that merely represented a potential prize. This bogus check looks so real that even your bank teller will probably not realize it’s a fake and will initially accept it. A typical person’s reaction is since the bank teller accepted it, it must be good and they then wire the fees. Unfortunately, that check will bounce and in addition to losing the fees that you sent, your bank may charge you a fee for the bounced check.
Another popular scam targets those who sell on sites like eBay and Craigslist. A person sells an item at an online auction site or via a classified ad. The buyer pays by sending a check that is for an amount greater than the agreed sale price. Giving some excuse for the overpayment, the buyer asks you to deposit the check and wire back the difference.
This may sound reasonable at first glance since it appears it’s the buyer who is taking the risk that you won’t return the amount of the overpayment. Being an honest person, you wire the money. You’ll find out from your bank a few days later that the buyer’s check bounces – losing the amount you wired plus fees from your bank for the bad check.
For more information about these and other popular schemes, you can read the Federal Trade Commission’s brochure “Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams”. The site will also provide more information regarding the law on availability of deposited funds and how to protect yourself against a bogus check scam.