LOS ANGELES (12/15/10)--The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, along with the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs, the California Bankers Association, and Consumer Federation of America (CFA), launched a new program Monday to protect consumers and financial institutions from fake-check scams. The anti-fraud program is being rolled out in 12 other states. Under the program, participating banks and credit unions in the greater Los Angeles area will hand out a brochure created by CFA, “Don't Become a Target,” to every consumer who comes in to deposit checks or money orders of $1,000 or more or to withdraw $1,000 or more, CFA said in a release. Seventeen banks and credit unions have signed up to participate so far. “The key is to prevent consumers from being victimized by educating them about these scams at the very point where they may be at risk,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s director of consumer protection, who is coordinating the program. In fake-check scams, the consumer receives a genuine-looking check or money order for something and is asked to wire money somewhere in return, CFA said. For instance, the check may be described as an “advance” on millions that the consumer has won in a sweepstakes or lottery. The consumer is instructed to send money to pay the taxes and claim the rest of the prize. In another popular scenario, the consumer is recruited to work at home as a mystery shopper or payments processor and is instructed to send money somewhere. The check or money order is phony, and when it bounces, the victim owes the money back to the financial institution where it was deposited or cashed. The average loss is $3,000 to $4,000, CFA said. “Fake check scams are a serious problem for consumers,” said Diana Dykstra, president/CEO of the leagues. “Credit unions want to do all they can to educate their members. That’s why we're excited to be a partner in this consumer education program.” CFA is providing the brochure to participating banks and credit unions at no cost. CFA is asking them to cover the shipping expense if they are able to do so.