United States

Lisa Madigan, Better Business Bureau Warn of Increase in Check Scams

In the scams, consumers are asked to cash checks and wire money to scammers

The Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning to consumers as it says complaints about check scams have skyrocketed in recent years.

The Bureau says that even though consumers aren’t writing as many checks as they used to, check scams are on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission says that complaints have doubled in the last three years, and millennials are particularly vulnerable to scammers.

Area resident Kathy Derrick is one of those victims, as she was targeted while looking for a job. Through the website LinkedIn, Derrick received a job offer to work remotely, from what appeared to be an HR person from a tech company.

“Who would think that a job search would lead to a scam,” she said. “They somehow made it look like (an official) address.”

The scammers sent her two checks and told her to wire money to a vendor to buy a computer, which she did.

It turns out that the checks were counterfeit, and as a result Derrick was out $2,300.

“Honestly, I felt really stupid,” she said. “I reported it anyway because I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”

The BBB says that these types of scams are on the rise.

“Whatever the ruse may be, the purpose is for the victim to cash the check and wire or mail back to the fraudster before the check is found to be counterfeit,” US Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Craig Goldberg said.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the check scams are particularly effective against millennials because of their reliance on debit cards, and because the checks look legitimate, with security features and heavy-grade paper.

“Many (millennials) just use debit cards or their phone, and they’re not at all familiar with the rules and regulations around checks,” she said.

The scams are particularly troublesome because of the burden they place on consumers. Banks will cash the checks, but by the time they recognize that they are fraudulent, the scammers will already have the money, and consumers are left footing the bill.

“Remember that once the money is wired, it’s gone, and it’s just like sending cash,” BBB Chairman Steve Bernas said.

Todd Kossow, Midwest Director of the Federal Trade Commission, issued a similar warning.

“Being asked to deposit the check and then wire money to someone you don’t know is always going to be a scam, every time, no matter the explanation,” he cautioned.

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