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Fake Checks?: Mystery Shopping, Lottery Winning and Over Paying

Posted by Brandon Weaver on Fri, May 30, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

Fake Check ScamAccording to Fraud.org, checks were targeted as the most prevalent vehicle in 2013, accounting for 23% of all gamuts. They can happen in your store or online and can burn your profits, give you headaches, and cause you to waste time recovering what is rightfully yours – payment for goods and services. They’re not all as obvious as the notorious Nigerian check, and some are downright clever.

According to the BBB, the three most common checks cons are:

You Got the Mystery Shopper Job!

Mystery ShopperThese usually involve people applying for mystery shopper jobs. The thief “hires” you and sends you a check to pay for the services you’ll evaluate. The check will always be less than $5,000 so it will appear as a “credit” in the victim’s bank account right away (Federal law requires a longer waiting period for larger amounts). Then, before the thief's check actually bounces, which might take up to two weeks, the victim goes to Western Union or MoneyGram and wires their own real money to the “employer.”  The victim then evaluates the money transfer service as part of their “new job.”   The first indication that something is amiss is when the “employer’s” check bounces and the victim realizes that the funds he transferred are gone forever.

You Won the Lottery!

The victim receives a letter claiming they’ve won the lottery. The check thief may also include a partial payment and instructions for the “winner” to deposit the check – and then wire money to the thief to cover taxes and administrative fees. The check is worthless, obviously, and the thief wins if the victim wires money before she realizes that. Besides, if you haven’t played the lottery, how can you win?

Dude, I Overpaid!

Over PaymentThese occur when a person sells an item through a classified ad in the newspaper or especially online through Craigslist, EBay or similar mercantile sites. The “buyer” purchases the item and wants to pay by check – sending, you guessed it, more than the purchase price. The victim tells the buyer about the mistake and the thief asks him to wire the overdue amount. The wired funds are good, and the check is not. The red flag for this overpayment ruse is obvious: who actually pays more than the selling price?

What is Safe? What Should I Look For?

When paying student loans, car payments, or paying bills using a merchant login you’ll know you’re safe because your counter party will take advantage of up-to-date security features. Two of the biggest security features to look for are the lock symbol in the URL address bar and when the URL begins with “https” as opposed to “http.” The “S” stands for “secure,” helping send the message to users that their transactions are safe.

No matter the type of technology used, thieves will be as opportunistic as possible in order to gain access to your personal information. Check cons happen at many businesses, so learn these ten surefire ways to spot fake checks and make sure it doesn’t happen to you!

spot fake checks

Tags: Check Fraud