CONCORD, N.H. (7/28/10)--Two lawyers from New Hampshire recently were targets in an elaborate fake check scheme designed to trick them into depositing a fraudulent check and then wire a portion of the funds to a third party. One lawyer fell victim and lost $240,000 in the process (UnionLeader.com
July 16). Lawyers, of course, aren’t the only ones targeted. The Federal Trade Commission website says Americans report losing $1 billion each year to fake check scams. Fake check scams come in many forms but have one identifying characteristic: Victims are asked to deposit a check and wire a portion of the amount back. Financial institutions must make funds from deposited checks available after a few days, while identifying a phony check may take several weeks. Victims typically wire funds well before they learn the deposited check is fraudulent; victims are responsible for the amount deposited and the wired funds. Don’t worry. It’s easy to protect yourself from becoming a victim once you understand what to watch out for:
* Field of schemes. Crooks use a number of scenarios via the mail and internet to trick people into becoming victims of fake check scams. Learn to recognize--and avoid--some of the most popular schemes, such as foreign or domestic lotteries and sweepstakes, family emergencies of someone you don’t know, overpayment for something you sell in a classified ad or online, and work at home and mystery shopper scams. * No need to return. There’s no legitimate reason for someone to give you a check and ask you to send money anywhere in return. Never deposit a check from someone and agree to wire a portion of those funds elsewhere * Free to claim. It’s normal to pay for goods before receiving them. However, you should never have to pay to claim a prize, grants from the government or foundations, or be required to cash checks and send money back to an employer.