National Consumers League

Fake checks bumped from No.1 spot at NCL's Fraud Center


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Six months into 2010, NCL's Fraud Center is noticing some interesting trends in reports from consumers who have been approached by a scam or - even worse - fallen for one. Interestingly enough, for the first time in years (!), the number one scam reported to the Fraud Center is no longer fake checks - those rascally set-ups in which con artists send a realistic-looking fake check for payment for work done or the sale of an item, asking the victim to wire back some portion of the payment. Undoubtedly, the check is bad, and consumers are left owing their bank for the money they wired back. Fake checks are still plaguing consumers, despite our education efforts, but they're no longer the top scam reported to the Fraud Center. They've been bumped during this first period by general Internet merchandise scams, in which consumers buy something online and either receive something wildly different from what they thought they were purchasing or nothing at all! Another thing NCL's Fraud Center staff is noticing is an increase in scams perpetrated against the oldest age group, those over 65. This group of seniors saw the largest increase in complaints, a more than 5 percent increase vs. 2009. NCL’s Fraud Center Director John Breyault warns that older consumers are particularly vulnerable to scams because they may not be as skeptical about bogus offers, and may be ashamed when they begin to suspect that they have fallen victim to a scam. Signs that an older loved one may be involved in a fraud include: a sudden inability to pay monthly bills, unusually heavy volumes of junk mail or telemarketing calls, or a reluctance to discuss repeated large payments to “a friend." Consumers concerned that an elderly friend or relative is a fraud victim should contact their local consumer protection office or state attorney general. You can read the full 2010 Mid-Year Top Ten Scams report here.