Scammers and thieves have adapted to the digital world we live in by coming up with newer, more effective crimes that prey on technology users. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the “old school,” tried-and-true methods of conning victims out of their money are gone. With an ever-increasing awareness of cybercrime and data protection, some thieves are dusting off their old methods of stealing your money in hopes that you’ll still be taken in.
Check forgery, bad check scams, and check cashing cons have been around for a long time, long before online banking or internet accounts made it possible to steal your funds electronically. This long-standing method of conning victims, though, is getting new attention, especially during the holidays when consumers may be looking for ways to bring in a little extra money to offset some of the expense that can happen at this time of year.
A check scam usually involves a convoluted story of give and take: the scammer is going to give you a check, you’re going to wire him a smaller amount of money in return, and you’re supposedly going to pocket a nice profit in the difference. But that’s the last thing that actually happens. These stories run the gamut of crazy tales—I have a check I can’t cash because I don’t use a local bank, I live outside the US and can’t afford the fees to cash an international check, my brother is going to send you the check because I don’t have a checking account of my own, you’ve won a lottery (that you don’t remember entering) and you only have to send back the processing fees—and they all have one thing in common: you’re not going to see a dime.
When you take the check to your bank and cash it, you’re really only depositing it and withdrawing your own funds. When the forgery is discovered after your bank tries to process the check (which can take anywhere from one to five business days), your money is long gone, and so is the person you “helped” cash a check.
As with a lot of other scams, the important thing to ask yourself before becoming their next victim is how legitimate this story is. Why would anyone need you to cash a check? There are check cashing services practically on every street corner; if the individual was going to pay you a large portion of the money for helping him, why doesn’t he just pay the small fee to a legitimate business to cash it instead? More importantly, why would anyone reach out to you—a complete stranger—and hand you a check to cash, knowing that you could deposit it and never follow through with sending them their payment? They can trust you because they know the check they’ve given you isn’t real. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, they’re just out a small, worthless piece of paper.
Don’t be fooled by the opportunity to make some quick money. Steer clear of strangers’ requests for help with their banking, and remember that the too-good-to-be-true world of finance continues to adapt in order to reel in more victims.