Vanessa’s rent check was stolen somewhere between her mailbox and the property management office. It ended up in the hands of unsavory fraudsters, who altered the check in a decidedly low-tech way: with a Sharpie.
What do you do when you have tried every possible tactic you can think of to resolve a situation, and you can still make no progress? Michael, a 20-year Wachovia customer, now finds himself in just this situation with the bank. No one at Wachovia has the power to straighten out his customer service nightmare that began when someone forged a check on his account back in June.
Know how when you go into your online checking account you can click on checks that you’ve written and see the scanned image of them? Well, those pictures have to be stored somewhere, and they’re not always secure. Russian crooks broke into three sites that store archival check images, stole the information, and wrote over $9 million in phony checks against over 1,200 accounts.
I bet if some guy approaches you on the street right as you’re about to walk into your bank or credit union and asks you to cash a check for him, you’d say no. That’s a good idea. Apparently at least two people in Madison, Wisconsin thought they were doing a good deed and helped the man out. It turns out that the checks were drawn on a closed bank account in Atlantic City, NJ.
A friend who works for Wells Fargo passed this scam check along, from a company calling itself “McDonalds French Fry Trust.” The check is accompanied by a letter that asks victims to pay $945 to the sender as a commission after the check is cashed.
Here’s another reason to have a sit-down with your elderly relatives and make them promise that if they ever, ever find out they’ve won some money in a lottery they didn’t enter, they should tell family members immediately.
Here’s one more reason to avoid mystery shopping scams: you could be the one who ends up in jail. A woman in Minnesota answered a “mystery shopper” email (that she found in her spam folder, sigh) and signed up. It turned out to be the old check fraud scam—they sent her a $2700 check and told her to deposit it and keep $300 a payment, then use the rest to make mystery shopper purchases. She took the check to her bank, and her bank called the police.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday about how to identify and protect loved ones from con artists. One of the problems with being an easy mark—say, because of reduced mental capacity or increasing isolation—is that you get put on a list and passed around to other scammers, says Karen Blumenthal, the author of the piece and a relative of one of these perpetually easy marks.
Is there anything scammers won’t try in their attempts to disguise advance fee fraud? Nope. Chelsea and her husband just found out that OMG THEY JUST WON 350K!!!1! from the Gaming Association of America. They’ll be receiving their check shortly, but in the meantime the GAA has sent them a much smaller check for about $5,000 to cover any fees associated with the prize. All they need to do is contact the “non-government service tax agent (GST)” to take care of cashing and handing over that $5k, and they’ll be swimming with hookers in champagne-filled pools.
Banks usually avoid having to deal with the consequences of advance fee fraud, since they make the depositor responsible for coming up with the missing money when a check turns out to be fake. But a lawyer who just got scammed is taking Citibank to court, because he says their “unconditional” guarantee that the check was legit led directly to his loss of $182,500.
There’s a happy ending to our story, “Always Look A Gift Check In The Mouth” about the guy who opened up a new bank account just to deposit a check he thought might be fraudulent and indeed, turned out to be. Fred writes:
My brother who is a junior at college sent out a bunch of applications for college grants and other sources of funding to pay for his education. Late this summer he received a check in the mail sent to him from one of the organizations that he sent an application to. The check wasn’t huge, but the $3500 would come in handy, and certainly would have been a huge help in paying for his books, and housing. When the check actually came in the mail it was just a check, nothing else, no letter of congratulations, explanation or anything else telling him why he had received the money…
Check-altering criminal mastermind Frank Abagnale has five ways to lockdown your checking account and secure your identity. Check fraud isn’t an anachronistic threat like Communism. Determined thieves can easily use your checks to steal your cash and your identity. Here’s how to stop them…
Over at InfoWorld they have a story from a guy who was trying to sell something on Craigslist, and because he is savvy in the ways of the internet, did not fall for an obvious “overpayment scheme.”