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  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , check scam, , ,   

    Check washing scam hits Conn. town hard 

    Check washing scam hits Conn. town hard

    By Greg Collier

    Police in West Hartford, Connecticut, have been receiving an inordinate number of complaints from residents who had checks stolen from mailboxes. Thieves will steal mail from both residential and public mailboxes in hopes they’ll find a handwritten check. Once they find a check, the thieves will attempt to remove the ink in a process called check washing. The checks will be bathed in a chemical solution that removes the handwritten ink while leaving the rest of the check intact. This allows them to rewrite the check in any amount. As long as there are sufficient funds in the account, the check can be cashed.

    The West Hartford Police are saying that the thieves use a custom-made tool that allows them to steal mail from most mail collection boxes. They also say that the thieves have been taking outgoing mail from residential mailboxes as well. Banks will reimburse customers if their checks are stolen, but that won’t stop the inconvenience of a payment not reaching its intended recipient.

    The best way to protect yourself against check washing is switching to all electronic payments. However, in some cases, only a check can be used. In those cases, when mailing a check, make sure to drop it off inside the post office during business hours. Leaving it in a mail collection box overnight could leave you vulnerable to mail theft. There are also special pens you can buy that are resistant to check washing. Lastly, as a good rule of thumb, you should never leave outgoing mail containing a check in your home mailbox. More mail is stolen from home mailboxes than USPS mailboxes.

    While this most recent story of check washing comes from Connecticut, check washing is a problem that’s been affecting consumers nationwide.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , , ,   

    New scam targets online sellers 

    By Greg Collier

    If you sell something online, there are a number of scams that you have to look out for. One of the most common ones is the fake check scam. In this scam, scammers will feign interest in whatever you’re selling before sending you a check for more than the price you were asking. They’ll claim a mistake was made and will ask you to deposit the check and send them the overage amount. It’s typically not until the seller sends back the overage that they find out the check was fake. At this point, the seller becomes responsible for the entire amount of the check, plus any service fees to their bank. Meanwhile, scammers make off with the amount that the seller sent them.

    According to a report out of New England, scammers are using a new ploy to try to get online sellers to deposit the scammers’ phony checks. Some scammers are said to be targeting people who are selling high-end items of larger sizes. For example, a couple from Maine were trying to sell living room furniture on Craigslist. The scammers said they would need to hire movers to pick up the furniture. The sellers were sent a cashier’s check and were told to hire the movers themselves using the overage from the check. The movers the scammers told them to use were said to also be in on the scam. That likely means that the movers don’t even exist and are just a part of the scam. Thankfully, the couple did not fall for the scam.

    Anytime you’re dealing with an online marketplace, there are a few good rules to follow to avoid being scammed. You should really only deal with people who are local. Scammers will often give excuses as to why they can’t meet in person, such as being from out of state. Only accept cash, as most other forms of payment can be manipulated in such a way that a seller may receive no payment at all. Lastly, whenever it’s feasible, make the transaction at your local police department. Again, while it’s not a guarantee you won’t get scammed, meeting at a police department will go a long way in discouraging not only scammers but other bad actors as well. Many police departments now have designated areas for making such an exchange.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , , , , , , ,   

    Can you be tricked into being a money mule? 

    By Greg Collier

    The Federal Government has recently issued multiple warnings about the dangers of becoming a money mule. The phrase is reminiscent of someone who is a drug mule. However, it’s much easier to be a money mule since money mules don’t have to leave the country or there on home for that matter since money can be moved around in several virtual ways. The main problem with money mules is that many of them don’t even know they’re being used to move dirty money around the globe.

    Both the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings about unwittingly becoming a money mule. Most of the ways people become unwitting money mules is through many of the scams that we should already be familiar with. The major ones are the fake check scam and the romance scam. The fake check scam is when the scammer sends you a fake check for any number of reasons. They then ask you to deposit the check into your bank account, keep a little bit of the money for yourself before sending the remainder to a third party. By the time the victim’s bank finds out the check is fake, the scammers have made off with the money, while the victim is responsible for the amount of the check to their bank.

    Meanwhile, the FBI is warning citizens about romance scams and how even victims of a romance scam can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. They’ve released a video about an 81-year-old woman who fell for a romance scam and allegedly helped her ‘boyfriend’ defraud other people.

    The reshipping scam is another avenue where scammers use unwitting participants as money mules. This is when people think they have a legitimate job as a package inspector. The victims receive packages, inspect them, then send them to a third part. The items they inspect are usually bought with stolen credit card information. By the time the credit card company catches on, the merchandise is in another country. If a reshipper does anything to skirt US Custom laws, even if instructed by the scammer, they could face arrest.

    This also includes any scam that involves gift cards or money transfers.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , , , , ,   

    Secret shopper scam seeks more targets 

    Secret shopper scam seeks more targets

    By Greg Collier

    In yesterday’s post, we discussed a job scam that seemed to be picking up in activity during the holiday season, that was the reshipping scam. Now, it’s being reported that in some parts of the country that another old job scam is ramping up during the holidays, and that is the secret shopper scam.

    Secret shopper is actually a real position with many major brick and mortar retailers. They’re employed by the retailers to go to the various store locations and rate the performance of the store and its employees. However, it’s not as common a position that the scammers would have you believe. Scammers post ads for secret shopper positions year round, but like most scammers, they’re really looking to target those looking to add to their holiday income.

    The Charlotte, North Carolina area has reported an uptick in secret shopper scams. Residents there have been responding to the ads for secret shoppers, only to realize it’s a scam. Victims are being sent checks for thousands of dollars and are told to deposit the check into their bank accounts. They are then instructed to keep $300 for themselves and $50 for gas. The rest of the money is supposed to be used to buy Walmart gift cards to supposedly rate Walmart’s service. The victim is supposed to give the numbers from the gift card to their supposed employer.

    The problem with this scam is that the checks are fake. By the time the victim’s bank realizes the check is fraudulent, the scammers have already made off with the money that was put on the gift cards. This leaves the victim holding the bag when it comes to reimbursing the bank for the amount of the phony check.

    No legitimate employer will ever ask you to deposit funds that are supposed to be used for business into your account. If they do, that’s a good indication that the check is fraudulent. Another red flag is almost anything to do with gift cards. Unless they’re being used as an actual gift, gift card numbers should never be given to anyone over the phone.

    If you really want to find a legitimate secret shopper position, your best bet is to check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at their website.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , check scam, , , , Zipcar   

    Rental car company’s name used in scam 

    Rental car company's name used in scam

    By Greg Collier

    Many of you might not have heard of Zipcar. They’re kind of like an Uber for rental cars. Instead of the cars being owned by a rental company, they’re owned by private citizens looking to make a little money by renting their car out through Zipcar. Zipcar is also owned by car rental giant AVIS. So, at least on the surface, they seem like a mostly reliable company. Of course, if you’re a reliable company, someone will use your name to try to scam people. We’ve seen such scams with companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Uber, so I guess it’s Zipcar’s turn now. In the interest of transparency, this is not an endorsement of Zipcar, and Zipcar had nothing to do with the actual scam.

    A man from Norfolk, Virginia, received a random text message that appeared to come from Zipcar. The text said the man could make hundreds of dollars just for driving his car around with a Zipcar decal on it. The man caught on to the scam quick when he clicked on the link in the text, and it went nowhere. Never click on those links, by the way. The report we’ve read doesn’t go into details, but the man received an email from a fake Zipcar representative.

    The man wanted to see how far the scam would go, so he responded claiming he was interested in the promotion. Not too long after that, he received a ‘welcome package’ in the mail. The package contained a Zipcar sticker, a letter, and a cashier’s check for $2,980. Of course, the check was a fake and the man did not deposit it.

    This is very similar to the car wrapping scam, where victims will be asked to wrap their whole car in some kind of advertisement. The victim will be sent the usual fake check and will be asked to deposit the check in their bank account. The victim will then be asked to take some of the money as their payment and used the rest to either buy ‘supplies’ from a vendor working with the scammer, or the victim will be asked to send the money to some third party as part of ‘business expenses’. When the victim’s bank finds out the check is fraudulent, it’s the victim that’s held responsible for that money.

    According to the Better Business Bureau, the Zipcar scam has been finding victims all over the country and fleecing them of thousands of dollars. As with most scams, you should ignore any unsolicited texts promising you money. Not only that, but real companies, especially as one as large as AVIS, will never ask you to deposit company funds in your own checking account. If any employer does, you can almost guarantee that the check is a fake.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, lending scam, , , , , , ,   

    Scam Round Up: Don’t let strangers use your phone and more 

    Scam Round Up: Don't let strangers use your phone and more

    By Greg Collier

    We’re closing out the week again with another trio of scams that have popped up around the country.

    ***

    Our first scam comes to us from Charlotte, North Carolina. Residents there have been complaining about a bold scam that takes advantage of your kindness. The scam involves people coming up to you asking to use your phone. The scammers will have some kind of story like hey’re car broke down and can they use your phone to call someone. Once they have your phone, they’ll open up whatever payment app you have on your phone and send all your money to the scammers account. In Charlotte, residents there have said that Venmo was specifically targeted, but this scam could be used on any payment app. The best way to prevent this from happening, outside of letting no one use your phone, is to enable the security features on your accounts. Usually, you can secure your accounts with a PIN or have them require your fingerprint or facial recognition.

    ***

    Speaking of North Carolina, the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina is warning consumers about phony lenders who are really looking to pull off an old scam. In this scam, the lender promise an easy loan, and will deposit a check in your bank account. The scammers will then demand you to buy loan insurance before the check even clears. However, the check never clears as it’s a fake, leaving the victim responsible for the check’s amount to their bank. These phony lenders usually promise you won’t have to undergo a credit check. This should be your red flag, as all legitimate lenders will have you undergo a credit check. Also, no one seeking a loan should respond to unsolicited offers they may receive through text or email.

    ***

    Lastly, the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa is warning their residents about a text messaging scam that threatens to lock their phone. Consumers there have been getting texts that appear to come from their cell phone providers telling them that their phone will be locked if they don’t make a payment. The text also contains a link that should never be clicked on. The link will either inject malware into your phone or it will ask you for your financial information. If you receive one of these texts or one like it, call the customer service number that appears on your bill or on the provider’s website.

    ***

    Please keep in mind that scams like this aren’t confined to the area where they are being reported on in the news. They could just as easily be happening in your area.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , , , St. Louis   

    Checks stolen from post office mailbox 

    By Greg Collier

    As much as we have moved away from paying for items with personal checks, there are still instances when a personal check is still necessary. For example, a woman in the St. Louis area needed to pay a contractor who was building her family a new home. That’s not a service that you can often pay with your debit card. The woman went to her local post office and placed the check that was addressed to the contractor in the collection box outside.

    She probably thought nothing of it until she received a call from her bank. The bank asked her if she had recently written a check for $73,000. She told the bank she didn’t and didn’t know the person that the check was supposedly issued to. The bank then asked her if she had used her local post office to mail the check. The bank said that they have had a number of customers had checks they wrote stolen from that collection box. The checks had all their ink removed and written to out to new recipients. Thankfully, the bank did not let the woman’s stolen check be cashed.

    This scam is known as check washing. It’s when someone dips an already written or even canceled check in chemicals and removes the handwritten ink from the check. The thieves can then write the check to whomever they want for whatever amount they want. As long as there is enough money in the checking account to cover the washed check, the check can be cashed.

    It’s recommended that in order to protect yourself that you switch from checks to electronic payments. However, like we said, in some cases, you have to pay by check. In that case, there are special pens you can buy that resist check washing. If you’re mailing the checks from the post office, have them mailed from inside the post office, where they’re less likely to be stolen. Lastly, never leave your outgoing mail in your home mailbox. More mail is stolen from home mailboxes than USPS mailboxes.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , , military family, ,   

    Military families are often targets of scammers 

    Military families are often targets of scammers

    By Greg Collier

    When we think of scamming victims, we often think of the elderly without a lot of online knowledge or maybe young people with not a lot of real-world experience. Who we may not think of is the immediate family of military members, specifically their spouses. While our men and women of the armed forces are being deployed, it’s up to their spouses to keep everything running as smoothly as possible on the home front. This is made even more difficult if the family has any children. Because a military spouse may be spending a lot of time at home without their partner, it could leave them vulnerable to various scammers.

    For example, the wife of a deployed soldier in Alaska recently found herself the victim of a work at home scam. She was looking to earn extra income for the family and looked online for a position that would allow her to stay home with her children. She found a position in a local Facebook group that ticked all the right boxes. It was an online work from home job that started at $15/hr where you could set your own hours and work would be available for 45 hours a week. After training, the salary would be increased to $20/hr.

    The victim was then sent a check, so she could order supplies. She was given a list of supplies to order and where to order them from. She was told to deposit the check in her own account and when she voiced her concerns about that she was told that this was standard practice.

    The check turned out to be fraudulent after she had spent the money. The family’s bank account was then locked, and now the family finds themselves in $15,000 debt to the bank.

    Please keep in mind that no legitimate employer will ever ask you to deposit company funds into your own bank account. Real employers have accounting and purchasing departments to handle such transactions. If an online employer asks you to deposit a check for business purposes, it’s almost guaranteed that the check is fake.

    This is only one of many scams that military families are vulnerable to. A good rule of thumb not just for military families but for all of us is not to send or receive money from anyone you don’t know.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , , ,   

    Stolen mail leads to stolen checks 

    Stolen mail leads to stolen checks

    By Greg Collier

    I’m sure we’ve all been there. You go the post office and pull up to the outside collection box. It turns out that the mailbox is filled to the brim with mail. You think to yourself that anyone could reach in and take a handful of mail. Then you still place your item to be mailed in the overflowing mailbox. If you’re still paying your bills by mail, you might want to reconsider that stance.

    A collection box outside a post office in Virginia Beach, Virginia has been targeted multiple times for mail theft in the past few months. After the mail was stolen from the box, checks that were supposed to be for bills were washed and cashed for much larger amounts. Check washing is when someone dips an already written or even canceled check in chemicals and removes the handwritten ink from the check. They then put in whatever information on the check that they need. As long as there is enough money in the account the check can be cashed. Some of the checks were rewritten for thousands of dollars more than they were intended for. If that transaction is ignored long enough, you could miss the window you have to dispute the falsified check.

    While this scam may not be as prevalent as others, you still don’t want to be the victim of this scam. It’s recommended that in order to protect yourself that you switch from checks to electronic payments. They can’t steal a check if there’s no check to be stolen. However, if you’re dead set on still mailing checks, there are a few precautions you can take. There are special pens that you can buy that are resistant to check washing. If you’re taking the bills to the post office, have them mailed from inside the post office where they’re less likely to be stolen. Lastly, never leave your outgoing mail in your home mailbox. More mail is stolen from home mailboxes than USPS mailboxes.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: check scam, , photographers, ,   

    How a Texas photography scam affects you 

    By Greg Collier

    It seems that scam artists are targeting wedding photographers in North Texas with a familiar ploy. The scammers are posing as wedding parties who are booking the photographer for a session. The scammers then send a check that’s more than the amount the photographer is asking. The scammers tell the photographer that the check was in the wrong amount and that the photographer should just deposit the check and send back the difference.

    Long-time readers may recognize this as the fake check or overpayment scam. If any photographers have deposited these checks, they may find their bank accounts a lot lighter. Banks usually don’t receive notice that the checks are fake for a couple of days. By that time the scammers have their money and the victim is stuck with paying off the phony check to their bank plus any fees incurred. At least one photographer asked her bank to research the check before she deposited it, and the check turned out to be fraudulent.

    You’re probably saying to yourself that you’re not a photographer from Texas, so why should you have to worry about this scam? The answer to that is this scam just doesn’t target one industry or one location. If you’re an employee, a business owner, or freelancer you could be targeted in this scam. If your position or business requires you to accept payments, you could be targeted in this scam. That’s not even considering that this scam has a long history of targeting individual consumers who sell items online.

    If you ever receive a check that’s over the amount you’re expecting, either destroy the check or send it back. If a business or business owner were to deposit one of these checks you could see your checks to vendors start bouncing. That could end with your business having a negative reputation with your vendors that could take a while to rebuild.

     
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