A Humboldt County woman recently received an unsolicited parcel in the mail containing a Cashier’s Check for $4,900 made out to the recipient and a letter with the U.S. Postal Service logo. The letter tells the recipient that they have been selected to participate in a consumer research survey evaluating their local Post Office branch. The letter instructs the recipient to cash the check at the bank and then go to the local post office to purchase four $1,000 money orders. The recipient is then instructed to contact a phone number for instructions on how and where to send the money orders. The letter states that the recipient can keep the extra $900 left over as commission and transportation earnings.
The offer may sound like a nice deal, but it’s too good to be true. The check or money order is a counterfeit. If deposited, it will be returned to the victim’s bank unpaid, and the full amount will be deducted from the victim’s account.
More About Fake Check Scams
You are responsible for any check or money order you deposit to your account. If the check or money order turns out to be a counterfeit, or is returned unpaid for any reason, you are fully responsible for the loss. Federal law requires banks to make deposited funds available within 1 to 5 business days. Just because you can withdraw cash from your account soon after depositing a check or money order doesn’t mean the item you deposited is valid. It can be weeks before a check or money order is discovered to be a counterfeit and returned to your bank unpaid.
According to the National Consumers League, victims lose an average of $3,000 to $4,000 with this scam, but your losses could be even higher. If you used some of the money to pay bills or for other purposes, you’ll have to pay that amount back to your bank or credit union as well. There may also be bounced check and overdraft charges as a result of the scam. And you could lose more than money — your account could be closed and it could harm your credit rating.
Protect Yourself From Fraud
- Just because you can get the cash quickly doesn’t mean the check or money order is good. Scammers take advantage of the fact that counterfeits can take weeks — even months — to discover. By then you’ve sent the money and have to pay it back to your bank. Only cash a check or money order from a person or business you know or trust.
- Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company with which you do business. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request – whether it comes as a text, a phone call or an email. If a scammer is impersonating a loved one or government official, call back at a publicly listed number for the organization from which the scammer claims to be or contact your loved one directly.
- Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “Social Security call” or “grandparent scam.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
- Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
- Living in the digital age, access to information is easier than ever. Scammers are often able to get their hands on very personal information, including the names, ages, and addresses of your loved ones, providing it to their victims to make their scam look more legitimate. Don’t trust a scammer who is able to provide your or your loved one’s personal information.
Learn more about fake check scams here: https://about.usps.com/postal-bulletin/2008/html/pb22225/html/kit_014.html
Sign up for the Federal Trade Commission’s scam alerts at ftc.gov/scams.
Visit https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds#item-35157 to learn how to report scams.