Avoiding Money Transfer Scams

Criminals are always looking for new ways to steal money and deceive others. Fake check scams are one fraudulent tactic to look out for. Here is important information from the Federal Trade Commission about fake check scams and some methods crooks might use to steal your money.

What is a Fake Check Scam?

Someone sends you a check with instructions to deposit it and wire some or all the money back. The check is fake, but it may look legitimate. You may get cash before the check is determined fake. (It can take weeks to uncover a fake check). You are responsible for the checks you deposit, so if a check turns out to be fraudulent, you will owe the financial institution you deposited it with any money you withdrew.

Here are some versions of the fake check scam:

Lotteries and Sweepstakes

You just won a foreign lottery! You are notified by a letter with a cashier’s check included. All you have to do is deposit the check and wire money to pay for taxes and fees. Don’t do it. The check is probably fake and you will lose any money you send.

Family Emergency Scams

You get a call out of the blue from someone who claims to be a member of your family and needs cash for an emergency — to fix a car, get out of jail or leave a foreign country. He begs you to wire money right away and to keep the request confidential. Before you send money, talk with your family. If you feel that you cannot ignore the request, try to verify the caller’s identity by asking personal questions a stranger can’t answer. And keep trying to reach your family to check out the story.

Mystery Shopper Scams

You are hired to be a mystery shopper and evaluate the customer service of a company. You’re given a check to deposit in your personal bank account. You’re told to withdraw cash and wire the money using a certain money transfer service. Often, the instructions say to send the money to a person in Canada or another country outside the U.S. Don’t do it. The check is probably fake and so is the “mystery shopping” job.

Advance Fee Loans

You may be tempted by ads and websites that guarantee loans or credit cards regardless of your credit history. But often, when you apply for the loan or credit card, you find out you must pay a fee in advance. If you have to wire money for the promise of a loan or credit card, you’re probably dealing with a scam artist.
Remember, don’t wire money to a person who:

  • You’ve never met.
  • Says they are your relative, and they’re having a crisis – but they don’t want you to tell anyone.
  • Says a money transfer is the only form of payment they accept.
    Asks you to deposit a check and send some of the money back.

Visit Consumer.ftc.gov for more tips on ways to keep your money safe.

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