Scam Alerts!


Scam Alerts!

This article is NOT about credit card debt.  Instead, it’s about scammers attempting to steal people’s hard-earned money.  Who are these people?  Do they really think Americans believe their emails that we’ve won some unknown lottery in some country nobody’s heard of?   Oh please! Did you ever get an email from someone in Africa or Asia who will pay you to help them move their money out of their country (undergoing political upheaval or somesuch)?  I can hardly believe that such scams are still out there, but they are.  According to a recent survey by the Consumer Federation, fraudulent activities are among the top consumer complaints.  These include fake check schemes, bogus sweepstakes and working-at-home prospects as well as make-believe lottery winnings.

In addition to the endless variations on fake check swindles  and other crazy schemes, here are a few scams to watch out for when they come marching into your email inbox:

  • You’ve won a foreign lottery and they send you a check for the first installment of your winnings.  To get the rest, you have to deposit the check, then wire the money to someone else. This other person supposedly pays the fees associated with your winnings and your money will follow. The check bounces and your money has gone out on the wire. For the uninitiated:  it’s against federal law to play foreign lotteries by phone, mail or online. 
  • You put something pricey up for sale on an online auction and get a response.  You receive a check for MORE than you expected from someone OTHER than the actual buyer.  They want you to wire the difference to the buyer.  The check, of course, will bounce
  • You meet an attractive person via an online dating service or through facebook.  They seem great, but later, they ask you for a “favor” by depositing a (fake) cashier’s check into your account and immediately wire the money to someone else.  Your new friend soon vanishes and you are left without your money.

The fact is that the above scams all rely on the length of time it takes for the bank to discover that there has been a fraudulent check credited to your account.  The thieves know that, although your bank makes the money available to you within a few days, weeks may pass until the bank discovers the fraudThe bank will then bounce the check.  You, the scammee, must repay the bank for the money or have your account frozen and/or closed. You may even be facing criminal charges because of your (unknowing) involvement in the fraud.

You should learn how to tell a fake check from a real check.  Today’s technology makes it extremely difficult to do so, but you can do it.  Here are some warnings that the check in your hand may be fraudulent:

  1. If there is a missing or faded bank logo, this would mean that the check may have been copied.
  2. If there is no street address, or an incorrect zip code, verify the address with the issuing bank by searching its website or calling a branch.
  3. Real checks contain digits which represent the routing number of the bank, the account and the check numbers.  This information is written in magnetic ink character recognition font, and is on the bottom of the check, which can be read by check sorting machines.  Real magnetic ink looks dull and fake magnetic ink numbers are shiny.
  4. The check number at the upper right hand corner isn’t the same as the number on the magnetic ink line.
  5. Deposits under $5,000 must be made available to you within five days.  Thieves know that you will complete the transaction before the check is cleared by the issuing bank.
  6. Check the routing number of the issuing bank.  If there are less than nine digits, it’s probably a fake.

The best thing you can do to avoid these frauds is to be vigilant and understand that if it seems too good to be true, it’s probably a fraud.  You can access some good resources to learn more about fake check scams and how to avoid them. including the FBI, the Consumer Federation of America, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), and the National Consumers League.  All of these may be accessed online.

  • 16 Feb, 2012
  • The Bill Coach
  • Avoiding Scams, Online Theft,

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