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Tips for Consumers: The counterfeit check crisis
Tips for Consumers
The counterfeit check crisis
Counterfeit check scams are sweeping the Hagerstown area and the entire country. We get calls daily from consumers who have received phony checks and are convinced that they will see a big profit from what is actually a terrible scam.
The most common type of scheme involves a cashier's check. These have traditionally been seen as a trusted form of payment. Unfortunately, criminals using high quality printers and scanners can easily counterfeit them. What may appear to be a "certified" or "official" check is often not worth the paper it is printed on.
Where do these checks come from? The most common start as "official notices" that the consumer has won some national lottery, such as Australia, Spain, Costa Rica or Canada. One lady received a letter telling her that she had won $65,000 from the Royal Pacific Lottery. They explained that she would need to pay a clearance fee required by federal and international law. A few days later, she received a bank check for $2,880 and instructions to deposit it in her bank account. Once her bank tells her the money is "available," she should withdraw and wire $2,700 to a lottery agent in Canada.
Customers don't understand the definition of funds availability. It means that the bank is required by law to allow its customers to withdraw the funds even though the bank hasn't yet received payment. Particularly with out-of-state or out-of-country checks, this may take over a week.
In most cases, victims wire the cash to the check issuer only to find that the check they deposited was uncollectible. In such cases, the customer is responsible and must pay back the bank--often thousands of dollars.
Another similar scam involves overseas companies, which claim to want to hire you for a "work at home" job to do secret shoppings, or to act as their representative. They send you official-looking checks, instruct you to deposit them in your own bank, then withdraw and send most of the money back to them. Of course, the checks are counterfeit.
The easiest rule is to beware when a sender tells you to deposit a check, then withdraw and send them cash. Assume they are counterfeit.
To file a complaint visit: www.baltimore.bbb.org or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.
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