Although nowadays plenty of business is done online, there are many people who still write, send and receive checks. A bit old school, maybe, they are still seen as a great and reliable way to get someone money.
But while that is certainly true, checks can also be used by scammers. Unfortunately there are a variety of ways in which that can happen, but one that is making the rounds right now has gotten so bad, it is seen as an epidemic.
Many thousands of people fall victim to it every year, with the consequences sometimes being quite devastating. That’s why it is important to not only know about the scam, but also how to avoid it.
It seems like a great thing — at first
As reported by the Better Business Bureau, billions of dollars in fake checks are circulated every year. They appear to come from legitimate companies and are sent to victims along with a seemingly simple offer.
In the case of Auriyon Jacobs, who is a college student from Oakland, California, she received a note with an offer to advertise for PepsiCo. Thinking it was from a fellow student, she applied for a job where all she had to do was have a Mountain Dew ad on her car to earn $250 per week.
Jacobs told CBS News the offer was to represent PepsiCo, and after sending in her application was given a check for nearly $5,000. Along with that, she was provided instructions to withdraw $3,500 and deposit it into the alleged scammer’s account, you know, to cover the installation of the ad on her car.
She withdrew the money and, soon after, was alerted by her bank that the check she deposited was fake. Yet Jacobs was out $3,500, which she said was meant to pay for much of her tuition.
The check scam does not always revolve around an employment opportunity; sometimes it revolves around sweepstakes or grants, tech support, online purchases or rent.
How bad is it?
The Better Business Bureau noted that the one thing each scam has in common is fraudulent checks, which may not be identified as fake until days after they are deposited. There were nearly 30,000 fake check complaints submitted in 2017, with people reporting losses of almost $38 million.
People in their 20s accounted for 21 percent of the complaints over the last two years. According to CBS News, the postal inspection service said it confiscated $62 billion of fake checks in 2017.
That’s only what is reported.
Don’t be a victim
According to the Better Business Bureau, one of the best ways to avoid falling prey to the scam is to be very careful when receiving a check from someone you do not know. Do what you can to verify where it came from and why you got it, as that will go a long way toward ensuring everything is kosher.
Furthermore, if you deposit a seemingly random check, one that is not from a friend or family member and has nothing to do with payroll, wait at least two weeks to be sure it cleared before spending any of it. This way, if it is fake and bounces, at least you will not be out any of your money.