Smart, educated and cautious Wisconsinites come into DCCU branches regularly to question if an amazing offer is legit or not. Let’s expand on a familiar phrase: If it seems too good to be true, it is… a scam! However, dreams of easy money or lottery winnings make us doubt our instincts, in the hopes of a surprise windfall.
Beware of check fraud!
A scam making the rounds again in our area offers easy money to put a company’s advertising on your car. The promise is that all you have to do to earn some monthly income is get the advertising installed and then drive your car around as usual. Sounds easy, right?!?
How the scam works
You may receive a letter in the mail – along with a cashier’s check. The instructions ask you to deposit the check into your account. You get to keep some of the money as an advance on your monthly earnings and the rest you will wire to the wrap installer.
In our example letter (at the end of this post), the author of the letter says numerous times to alert them when the checks have been deposited. This is important to the scammer because they know they have limited time to have their “installer” contact you. They will set up an appointment to have the work done and give specific instructions on how to wire them the payment.
Banks and credit unions are required by federal regulations to allow you access to some or most of the deposit within a few days. Subsequently, weeks after you deposit the check(s), and maybe spend your portion of the money, you will be notified that you’re the victim of check fraud. The item was returned and is a fake. That deposit now has to be reversed and the money will come back out of your account. If it’s no longer there, you’ll have to find some way of paying it back.
“If you get a message urging you to deposit a check and wire money back, it’s a scam. Every time. No matter the story.” (Federal Trade Commission)
Protect yourself and your money by being skeptical. The Federal Trade Commission offers these 4 tips on how to avoid financial scams:
- If someone urges you to wire money, it’s probably a scam. Con artists often insist that people wire money because it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction and follow the money.
- Don’t send money to someone you don’t know, either in cash or through a wire transfer service. Consider using a payment option that provides protection.
- Don’t agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back. No matter how convincing the story, it’s a lie.
- Don’t respond to any messages that ask for your personal or financial information, regardless of whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text, or an ad.
Don’t ever feel embarrassed to ask for our advice if you receive a questionable letter or check. Unfortunately we have seen a number of savvy, smart members come forward to fess up that they’ve been swindled. It happens. More than you think.
In other words, check fraud is a serious and prevalent problem. If it happens to you, we will do everything we can to help get you out of a mess.
To sum up, the best protection is prevention – catching fraud before it happens saves everyone a huge hassle and possibly a lot of money.