If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. When someone you don’t know wants to pay you by check and wants you to wire some of the money back, Beware! Scammers are clever. In fact, they may even use a familiar logo or company name on the check, such as Wright-Patt Credit Union, to throw you off. Scams like this could cost you thousands of dollars and that’s why it’s important to be extra cautious.
They look real! Even credit union staff working in Member Centers may not be able to identify these checks as counterfeit at first glance. These are phony cashier’s checks and while the company’s name appears to be real, someone dummied up the checks without their knowledge.
How to spot a scam?
There are many types of fake check scams and they all have one thing in common: they want you to deposit money into your account and then withdraw “some” of the money to send it back to them. They may even go as far as asking you to wire the money to them right after you deposited the check. There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back to them. Wired funds are not recoverable.
A foreign country example
Someone in another country contacts you and claims it’s too difficult and complicated to send you money directly from their country, so they arrange for someone else in the U.S. to send you a check.
They locate you because you advertised something for sale online. They send you a check for more than the advertised amount and ask that you send the difference by wire transfer. Or, you applied for a job online through a job search site. This person claims they want to pay you to do work at home or to be a secret shopper. Another example, they want to give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve supposedly won, or pay the first installment on the millions that you’ll receive for agreeing to have money in a foreign country transferred to your account for safekeeping.
Beware! Whatever the pitch, the person may sound quite believable. They’re just hoping you take the bait!
Don’t get left holding the bag!
As the owner of the account, you’re in the best position to determine this type of risk – you’re the one dealing with the person who is arranging for the check to be sent to you. So, when your check bounces, the credit union deducts the amount that was originally deposited into your account. In the end, you’re responsible for repaying the money back to the credit union.
While Federal law requires credit unions and banks to make deposited funds available within certain time limits, 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 may take weeks before a check or money order is discovered to be counterfeit and returned to your credit union as unpaid. Credit union staff working in Member Centers may not be able to determine whether an item is invalid, and as a result, their job is to initially process your check.
For more information, visit the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Guide to Preventing Mail Fraud.
Don’t deposit it – report it!
If you believe you’ve been taken advantage of as part of a scam involving the U.S. Mail, you can get help by contacting your nearest Postal Inspection Service office in one of three ways:
Call 1-877-876-2455 (press option “4” to report suspected mail fraud).
Visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactus/filecomplaint.aspx to report suspected fraud online.
Mail your queries to this address:
Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attn: Mail Fraud
222 S. Riverside PLZ STE 1250
United States Postal Inspection Service
Washington, DC 20260-2169
Address Service Requested
If you received the item by UPS or Federal Express, contact the respective company to report the attempted fraud at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.