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Students Often Targeted in Check Fraud Scams
Nobody ever thinks that they'll become a victim of a scam. The best way to prevent becoming a victim is to educate yourself so you can recognize a scam when you see one.
Most counterfeit check scams involve victims being tricked into cashing counterfeit checks and sending money to a scammer. These scams are often Internet-based (i.e., originate through email or websites like Craigslist or eBay) and involve money being sent to foreign countries. Here are some common check scam scenarios that you should be aware of:
- If you are asked to cash a check and send money through Western Union or Money Gram—or if the offer is "too good to be true," it's likely a scam.
- Internet sales. You are selling an item on the Web, and the buyer sends a check for more than the purchase amount. They require you to wire back the difference.
- Lottery winner. You are notified by email that you have won a lottery, yet have to wire transfer fees, taxes or provide your Social Security number and/or details of your accounts or credit cards in order to receive the "winnings." Or, you are mailed a counterfeit check for your "winnings," but are asked to wire fees or taxes back before you can receive the full payment.
- Secret shopper. You respond to an ad looking to hire people to act as secret shoppers. You are mailed a counterfeit cashier's check for a large amount and are told to cash it at a bank or credit union. You're told to go pose as a customer, and wire the money from the counterfeit check to a "relative," who is actually a scammer. For more details about secret shopper scams, read our
secret shopper scams article.
- Subletting. You post an ad seeking a subletter for your apartment. An "interested renter" sends you a check for more than the requested amount. They then say they have to cancel their plans and ask you to wire back the difference or request that you send money to a third party to pay moving expenses or tuition. The original check is returned unpaid, often after a week or more, and you have lost all of the money you wired. For more information about subletting scams, read our
subletting scams article.
- Never use your account to cash a check for a stranger, even if you think you are doing a favor. If the check turns out to be fake or bounces, remember, you are responsible for items deposited into or cashed against your accounts.
How to Protect Yourself
- Be cautious, even if you "know the person" through many emails or calls.
- Insist on a cashier's check from a local financial institution, and cash it there.
- For Internet purchases, use reputable payment services when possible.
- Order a copy of your credit report annually (annualcreditreport.com). Look for entries that you don't recognize.
If you encounter suspicious activity, contact UW Credit Union at 608.232.5000 or 800.533.6773.
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