A new scam is swindling consumers: counterfeit checks that seem legitimate to both bank employees and consumers, but that leave unsuspecting consumers footing the bill. The Federal Trade Commission is issuing a new brochure, Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams, which explains common angles used in these scams, the responsibilities of banks and consumers when it comes to counterfeit checks, and advice on how to avoid these increasingly common traps.
While the angles used by scam artists may vary, the basics of the counterfeit check scheme remain the same. The consumer receives a generous check with an explanation that they’ve just won an award, a prize, a lottery or some other windfall. The consumer is instructed to deposit the check and wire a portion back to pay fees, taxes, or the like. The consumer deposits the check, the bank credits the funds to the consumer’s account, and the consumer wires the money to the sender. Some time later, both the bank and the consumer learn the check was bogus. Unfortunately, the consumer is out of luck: the money that was wired can’t be retrieved and, by law, the consumer is responsible for the deposited check – even though they didn’t know it was fake.
The FTC advises consumers not to rely on funds from checks unless they know and trust the person who gave them the check or, better yet, until the bank confirms that the check has cleared. Other advice includes:
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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