Fake check scam on the rise and targeting young people

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Fake Checks: One the rise and fooling young people
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Scammers will send you a check in the mail that looks real. Don't cash it - this type of fraud is on the rise.

CHICAGO -- It may look like an offer to work from home or even a claim that you won the lottery, but the ABC7 I-Team has found time and time again that it all leads back to a scam involving fake checks.

Scammers will send a check in the mail that looks real, telling you to cash it and send them a portion back. The problem is that check will most likely bounce, leaving you on the hook for all the money.

Downers Grove resident Kathy Derrick lost $2,000, after cashing fake checks for a so-called "work-from-home" job. Someone had messaged her about it on a legitimate job website.

"They are very, very smart. They know what they are doing," she said.

She was told to cash checks, keep a portion, then send the rest of the money to a partner business to buy "office supplies," but she was really wiring the money to a fraudster. She said the check looked real.

"Absolutely. So real you could not tell the difference. Company checks looked just like company checks the person who was the head of HR, her signature," Derrick said.

The I-Team has warned viewers of these types of fake check schemes since 2014.

Besides work from home scams, there's the mystery shopping scam, the lotto scam and the romance scam. All of them fool people into cashing fraudulent checks and sending back a portion of the money.

"If the check clears it doesn't mean the check is good. It can take up to two weeks, I think about two weeks, to let them know it is counterfeit and guess what? You, the consumer, are liable for the money that was wired out," said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau of Northern Illinois.

Wednesday the Better Business Bureau sounded the alarm with other consumer groups like the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the American Bankers Association and the Illinois Attorney General.

"My office has been receiving hundreds and hundreds of complaints a year," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. "Not only does my office receive fake check scams but so do I! Here is a fake check that came to my office in August and here are two more that came addressed to Lisa Madigan in July of this year so look it doesn't matter who you are."

The BBB also released a recent study saying the scheme is rising and that more young people are falling for it.

"Several of these college students had to take out payment plans with the bank to pay the money back that was stolen from them," Bernas said.

So you may be wondering, why do the banks cash these fake checks?

"Their bank is required by law to make the funds available shortly after the check is deposited but that doesn't mean the check is cleared," said Todd Kossow, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Midwest Region.

The other reason banks cash the checks is the same reason consumers are fooled: they look so real.

The best thing to remember is never cash a check from someone you don't know and trust and don't cash checks that you get in the mail from strange companies.

The FTC said last year alone people lost more than $25 million to this scam.