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More consumers are falling victim to fake check scams, thanks to the creativity of the con artists perpetuating them.
The schemes involve an offer from a stranger to purchase something you advertised or send winnings from a sweepstakes you allegedly won. They send a check or money order for more than they owe you, on the condition you promptly refund the overpayment.
Most victims felt the plan was risk free. But a week or two after they deposited the checks or money orders–and issued the refunds–they discovered the documents were fraudulent.
The first complaints I received were from consumers selling cars and collectibles on the Internet. Last month, I heard from a man who was scammed by a potential roommate who sent a bogus check as an alleged security deposit on an apartment.
Most recently, Stephanie Slone of Manhattan was conned by someone who allegedly wanted to buy a few pieces of her old furniture. Slone was moving uptown and selling some of her furnishings. She successfully sold several items on the Internet.
Then she was burned. Slone got an email from a woman who claimed she loved one of the chairs she was selling. A few weeks later, she received a $1,000 check in the mail. I was like, the chair’s $200. What is going on?” she recalled.
When she e-mailed the buyer about the overpayment, she was told to deposit the full $1,000, keep an extra $100 for her trouble, and refund the remaining $700.
She did…and learned only later that the check was bogus. The bank settled by taking $1,000 back out of her account.
In most cases, the bogus checks are drawn on fabricated accounts. However, in some cases, they are drawn on someone else’s account. In those cases, the check will appear to be valid–until the account holder notifies his bank about an unauthorized withdrawal.