“Fake Check” resources help consumers avoid fraud

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

 

Consumer Federation of America's Fake Check Task Force launches a national campaign to combat fake check scams. Consumer Action is a task force partner.

Authentic looking checks and money orders are the draw that tricks millions of consumers into sending money to crooks for what seems to be a legitimate deal.

At least 1.3 million consumers have become actual victims of fake check scams, with millions more approached with bogus offers, according to a new survey by Consumer Federation of America (CFA). With an average loss of $3,000 to $4,000 per consumer, billions of dollars have been pocketed by fake check scammers.

Consumer Action has received complaints from consumers who were promised mystery shopper jobs. One California consumer explained that she was told she would be paid with money orders and merchandise, but she had to wire some of the money to a third party. When the money orders bounced she was on the hook for over $1,300.

According to the survey of 2,000 adults, the most common fake check scams are those involving sweepstakes/lotteries (66 percent), grants (36 percent) and work-at-home opportunities (35 percent).

“In today’s economy, as consumers struggle to make ends meet, vulnerability is at an all-time high. Phony claims of sudden riches or ways to make money have never been more attractive,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection. CFA created a Fake Check Task Force to help raise awareness about these scams and protect consumers.

Consumer tips

  • Never agree to pay to claim a prize. No legitimate sweepstakes or lottery would ever send you a check or money order and ask you to send payment in return. If you really won, you would pay taxes directly to the government.
  • Never agree to pay for grants from the government or foundations. They don’t offer money to people unexpectedly or charge to get it. Most grants go to organizations, not individuals, and require a lengthy and extensive application process. See new tips on grant scams at www.fakechecks.org/prevention- faqs04.html.
  • Never agree to cash checks and send the money somewhere as part of a job working from home. That is not how legitimate employers operate. (See new tips on mystery shopping scams at www.fakechecks.org/prevention-faqs05.html.)
  • Never agree to wire money to anyone you have not met in person and known for a long time.
  • If it seems suspicious, get advice. Consult your state or local consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the Postal Inspection Service, or another trusted source.
  • Remember that there is no legitimate reason why anyone who wants to give you a check or money order for something would ever ask you to send money anywhere in return. Go to www.fakechecks.org to learn more about how to protect yourself from fake check scams.

The Fake Check Task Force brings nonprofit consumer organizations, law enforcement, consumer protection agencies, businesses and trade associations together to fight these scams through greater education and awareness. Click here for a list of all members.

For more information about grant and mystery shopping scams, in English and Spanish, visit www.fakechecks.org. You’ll also find an e-card that consumers can send to warn others about fake check scams. Spanish translation has been provided by Consumer Action.

At www.consumerfed.org/fakecheckscams there are several new CFA resources for consumer education including a fact sheet and ready-to-use news articles in English and Spanish, and links to other materials.

 

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