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Financial Literacy


Beware Of Fake Checks! Protect Yourself From The Latest Scam

8/31/2017 3:32:44 PM

Two hands holding up a sign that says SCAM!Personal checks look simple and innocent. Recently, though, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other agencies have warned about increases in fake check scams.

There are several variations of the scam, and they all end with you losing thousands of dollars.

The scam may be done under the pretext of a work-at-home job, an online sale or a sweepstakes that you’ve miraculously “won.” You’ll be asked to deposit a check or money order that’s worth thousands of dollars more than what you’re owed and then to wire the difference to your contact.

Of course, these checks are phony. Unfortunately, because they can be extremely difficult to recognize, it can take several weeks for a financial institution to identify them as fake. By that time, you may have already paid the requested amount to the scammer, and when you realize the check was fraudulent, it’s too late to reclaim your money. Worse yet, you’ll be responsible to pay the fee for the bounced check on top of what you lost.

Keep yourself safe by following these tips:

1.) Wait for clearance

It’s hard to tell if an online job you just took is bogus until the first paycheck clears. Wait several weeks until you see the funds from a deposited check are completely available before making any transfers using that money. Never use funds from a deposited check from an unknown source until you are absolutely certain that it has cleared.

2.) Ask questions

If an online sale or job sounds suspicious, don’t be afraid to be curious. Ask about the overpayment and the inflated checks. When you’re told a long, rambling tale about avoiding complicated tax scenarios, overseas charges and company errors, ask more questions. Demand a new check and answers. If you don’t receive what you ask for, opt out.

3.) Play hard to get

Scammers find your information by buying lists of potential victims from other scammers, randomly calling thousands of numbers and by checking your online activity to see if you’re a good target.

Beat their game by keeping yourself as anonymous as possible. Add your number to the FTC’s Do Not Call List at Strengthen your spam filter and ignore emails that sound too incredible to be true. Be wary of answering calls from unknown numbers – just picking up the phone makes you a credible target.

Lastly, if you or someone you know has been victimized by a fake check scam, be sure to report the scam to your local law enforcement agency and to file a complaint with the FTC. This will help law enforcement agencies track down the criminals.

Remember: The best protection against scams is to be informed and to be aware. Stay in the know, and stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a fake check scam or observed signs that might have indicated you are being targeted? Share your experience with us in the comments!

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