WASHINGTON—Counterfeit checks, often digitally altered versions of real business checks, are getting so good that they're nearly impossible to spot, a new study shows.
Tellers at financial institutions are being fooled, as it's estimated that as many as 500,000 Americans were burned by fake check scams during 2017, with the average victim losing about $1,200, the Better Business Bureau reported.
Check fraud remains “a huge problem,” the report said, with “millions of fake checks worth billions of dollars circulating every year.” Complaints to government agencies and consumer advocacy groups have doubled over the last three years, reported NBC News in its analysis.
Fake checks and counterfeit money orders are now used in a variety of scams. The following are some common scenarios that are age-old but continue to proliferate, and which members consistently need to be cautioned over:
- Classified ads: In a typical scam, a person is selling something on Craigslist or some other online classified ad site and the “buyer” sends a check for more than the selling price. “Sorry, we made a mistake,” the scammer will say. “Just deposit it and wire back the difference.”
- Prize scams: In another typical scam, a person is told they have won a sweepstakes or lottery prize and need only pay the taxes and handling costs to claim it. “Winners” are sent a check to cover those expenses and urged to deposit it and then send the money to a third party.
- Employment scams: A person is “hired” for a work-at-home position, but is told they will need to buy some supplies to get started. Their new “employer” sends a check to cover those expenses and tells the victim where to wire the money to buy them.