Crime Prevention Corner

 Know Your Scams

by Steve Wagner

Recently, while on my way to work, I received an excited call from my wife. She had called to tell me that we had just received a cashier’s check for $2,850. I asked her who it was from and she stated that it did not have a payee on the front, “but it is drawn on US Bank and it looks legit.” I then asked her to look at what it was sent in. It was sent in a USPS priority mail envelope from a well respected company. I asked her why they would send her a check. Her voice lost its excitement as she knew where my questions were headed and she despondently said, “I can’t think of any reason why they would send me a check.” She ended the conversation by saying, “you’re no fun.”

While I may have been a buzzkill to my wife, the fact of the matter is I saved us from a nearly $3,000 mistake by cashing that check. Sure, my bank may have eventually refunded me the money, but the hassle involved is simply not worth it. Why was my wife chosen to receive a fraudulent check? I’m not sure, but it is one of the many scams that are currently going around now.

Scam artists are in it for their own profit and it does not matter to them how much harm they may do to you. I find it helpful to ask the type of questions as I did above:

  • Why am I receiving this check?
  • Do I know who it is that is sending me this check?
  • Where was it sent from?
  • Is the check drawn on a respected bank?

A true cashiers check will contain the following information at a minimum: A payee, an address, a phone number, and some sort of a security measure such as a watermark. Fraudulent check makers are becoming more sophisticated and often the checks look very genuine. To appease my wife, I actually went to a US Bank and provided them with the check before cashing or depositing it. They were able to verify that the check did not belong to a valid US Bank account and thus the check was fraudulent.

I have compiled a list of current scams that are happening all around the country at this point. This is just a very small sample and scam artists are changing their methods on a daily basis. Should you wish to get more information on the current scams, a good website to visit is the Federal Trade Commission.  You may also sign up to receive alerts via text or email from the website as well.

Craigslist scams – Purchaser will offer a check for more than the item is being sold for and ask you to cash the check and give them the additional funds. The check is written on a closed or fraudulent account.

Employment scams – Employers will state that you can work online from home to earn money. They will send you an “advancement” check and tell you to purchase supplies through their vendors. Their vendors are actually them and they have essentially laundered money through you by providing you with a fraudulent check.

Loan refinancing or vehicle warranty purchase – This method is used in several different scenarios. You will receive a call offering a service such as a mortgage refinance or a vehicle warranty, etc. They will obtain a tremendous amount of your personal information including a social security number and then ask for a credit card to pay for a fee. Tip:  NEVER give out any information to someone who contacts you directly and be very leery of providing anyone personal information over the phone unless it is a trusted and known source. Most reputable companies will not ask for your personal information.

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