by Susan Grant, Director of NCL's Fraud Center
When you work on a national public education project, it's often hard to tell if the message really works. So it's been gratifying to hear from consumers (below) that our effort to warn people about fake check scams is succeeding! On October 3, we launched a new Web site, www.fakechecks.org, and a major publicity campaign in partnership with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, major banks, money transfer services, and others who shared our concern about the epidemic of fake check scams that is sweeping our nation.
You've probably seen the commercials, like the one with the guy on the bus who tries to give the woman a check as a down payment for the millions she has supposedly won in a foreign lottery. Fake check scams have become the top telemarketing fraud and the second most common Internet scam reported to NCL's Fraud Center. The average loss is $3,000-$4,000 -- that's a lot of money for most of us. But the consequences can be even more severe.
Victims' bank accounts may be closed, and they may have difficultly opening new accounts. They may be sued if they can't pay the money back to their banks right away, and some are even being prosecuted for check fraud.
Essentially, these scammers are stealing money from the banks and leaving consumers holding the bag. That's why it's so important for consumers to be aware of these scams and understand that just because the funds are available doesn't mean the check is good. The new Web site is getting tons of hits, but even more gratifying are the messages that many consumers are including when they report these scams through the Web site, like the following ones we recently received.
THANK YOU for the warning. I was recently contacted by unsolicited email after posting my resume on Monster.com. I did respond to the offer, but now that I saw your advertised warning this evening, I am planning on NOT depositing any checks sent to me by the company in question...If not for this warning, I would have lost money and time I do not have.
M.F., Bellflower, CA
I had received a letter in the mail with a check of $2875.00. The letter stated for me to keep $300 of that and send $2520.00 as a money gram through Wal-Mart to an address in Canada, and $55 was for the money gram itself.
They wanted me to do this "assignment" to evaluate the effectiveness of a payment system... I thought about it and decided to "look it up" on the internet. I found this website and thank God I did!!! Thanks!!! Needless to say I didn't cash it...I want these people stopped."
S.P., Wharton, TX