Columbus police warn against counterfeit, fake check scams





Because of an increase in reports of fraudulent checks/money orders received within the Columbus area, the Columbus Police Department is urging extra caution. 


"Counterfeit or fake checks are being used in a growing number of fraudulent schemes, including foreign lottery scams, check overpayment scams, Internet auction scams and secret shopper scams," Columbus Police Department Public Information Officer Terrie Songer said in a news release. 


In secret shopper scams, the consumer, supposedly hired to be a secret shopper, is asked to evaluate the effectiveness of a money transfer service.  


The consumer is given a check, told to deposit it in their bank account and withdraw the amount in cash. Then, the consumer is told to take the cash to the money transfer service specified, and typically, send the transfer to a person in a Canadian city.  


Then, the consumer is supposed to evaluate their experience, but no one collects the evaluation. 


"The secret shopper scenario is just a scam to get the consumer's money. Con artists who use these schemes can easily avoid detection," Songer said. 


Consumers should not rely on money from any type of check unless they know and trust the person or until the bank confirms that the check has cleared. 


"Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered and untangled," Songer noted. "The bottom line is that until the bank confirms that the funds from the check have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check." 




Anatomy of a scam



    Most scams involve one or more of the following: 


  • Inquiry from someone far away, often in another country. 


  • Asking you to wire funds via Western Union, Money Gram or any other Wire Service. 


  • Fake cashier's checks and money orders: These are common, and banks will cash them and hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later. 


  • Inability to meet face to face: Deal locally with people you can meet in person (Follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99 percent of these types of scams!) 




    Protecting yourself 


    Here's how to avoid a counterfeit check scam: 


  • Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. If it's free or a gift, you shouldn't have to pay for it. 


  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It's illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or the telephone, and most foreign lottery solicitations are phony. 


  • Know who you're dealing with, and never wire money to strangers. 


  • If you're selling something, don't accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Don't send the merchandise.  


  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that's not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank's phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the check or from the person who gave you the check. 


  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don't pressure you to send money by wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there's a problem with a wire transaction. 


  • Resist any pressure to "act now." If the buyer's offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.




If you think you're a victim 


Contact your local law enforcement agency to file a report. Bring any letters you received, as well as any check/money order with you when you file your report. crack




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