At this time of year, we all risk resembling Charlie Brown waiting on his Valentine in the mailbox. Has my check arrived? Is it in the mailbox? Perhaps you’re waiting on stimulus checks or tax refunds. But along with the hint of spring flowers, there is mailbox optimism in the air for many of us. And when there is an opportunity at large like this, what do we know also increases? The likelihood of a scam.
Fake check scams aren’t anything new. In fact, they are probably one of the older ways that criminals have tried to dupe us out of funds. But we tend to let our guard down when we expect something, so we don’t question it as out of the norm or review it in more detail.
How Does It Happen?
How do these fraudulent checks appear? In the form of overpayment for something perhaps you sold online, prize money, tax refunds, payment for work requested, and countless other ways for you to be taken advantage of.
Stolen data can lead to a false tax return being filed on your behalf. You may be issued the funds but then will receive attempts to reclaim that money through harassing phone calls or emails. The government has issued several ways for you to verify if your check from them is real. You should of course always verify that any tax filing or refund was filed and issued with your full knowledge. Never assume someone did you a favor on your behalf.
In this day of social influencing as income, hackers have found a way to cash in on the trend. They’ll email or text you, offering to have you advertise for them on your platform, or perhaps even your vehicle. You provide personal information, and it doesn’t even have to include banking information, they may offer to send you a check. You get the check and “keep a portion” to pay for services rendered as well as pay out any costs required. Fake check provided for legitimate personal information. The hacker is the only one that made out in that transaction.
Do not accept overpayment for items that you sell online – this is a clear indicator of a fraudulent transaction. Do not ever offer to purchase gift cards with money provided to you to act as a “secret shopper”. Before cashing any unexpected checks that you receive, ask yourself:
- Did I expect this payment?
- Do I have to return any portion of the payment issued?
- Does the sender keep inquiring about receiving payment from me?
- Were there detailed or urgent instructions on how to deposit and refund any of the money sent to me?
Answering YES to even ONE of these questions should be a trigger alert to you that you are in receipt of fraudulent funds. Do not deposit the check. You can also go to your bank to speak with someone or contact the IRS should you have questions or doubts about transactions you aren’t sure of being legitimate.