February 15, 2015

Scam U: Checking Scam, got an app for that

Remember the standard check cashing scam?If not, then here is a recap for you. It starts with a scammer sending you a fake check for winnings or overpayments. The scammer instructs you to deposit the check and wire some of the money (from the overpayment or to process "winning" fees) to a separate account. Usually it is to an overseas account. The fake checks often  look so real that bank tellers cannot tell if they are real or not. Look at our image below. Would you be able to to tell if it was the real deal or a crummy fake? 

Cheque sample for a fictional bank in Canada. ...
Sample Canadian fictional bank check.
How would you be able to tell if it was real or not?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, by the time the bank realizes the check is a forgery, the scammers made off with the additional money and the victim is on the hook for it. Bummer!

Scammers are starting to take a modernized twist to this scam by trying to target you for your smart phone banking apps. They con account holders into sharing their banking information and using the bank's bank app to deposit fake checks into the victim's account. Typically scammers approach the victim offering to pay several hundred dollars (sometimes even more) if they would cash a check for them. If a stranger makes you this offer, bells and whistles should immediately be going off in your head. Some scammers even pose as potential employers or lenders who need access to the victim's account to deposit money. Sadly in this difficult economy, people are desperate enough to believe it. Scammers withdrawal money from the account before the bank discovers the checks are frauds and leaving the victim on the hook for the illicit funds.

Don't fall prey to this tactic or any other version of it.
  • Don't cash strange checks. If a stranger is offering you money to cash a check on their behalf, it is probably illegal. Think about it, why would they pay you to do it, when they can open a bank account for free or get somebody they already know to do it?
  • Do not give out your banking app information. This should go without saying. However, the Better Business Bureau wouldn't have sent out warnings about this scam if people followed this rule. 
  • Do not accept overpayments. Only accept exact payment. If they keep trying to talk you into accepting the overpayment and sending the extra to a different location, walk away from the deal.
  • Make sure the check clears before withdrawing. If you are going to cash strange checks despite my previous advice, make sure the check clears before spending any of the money. This may take anywhere from one to two weeks. In the mean time the con artist will keep hounding you for the money.
  • Remember the saying, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Nobody will give you something for nothing, and you should exercise caution when somebody offers.


References:
Better Business Bureau (5 December 2014). Check cashing scam gets a high tech twist. Scam Alert! email.

Federal Trade Commission (n.d.) Consumer information: Fake checks. Retrieved from http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0159-fake-checks  

2 comments:

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