Check cashing scam goes digital: Here comes the banking app version

ID-100215081The check cashing scam comes in many flavors: fake lottery, fake work-at-home, fake inheritance, Nigerian Prince, etc.

Consumers have told Your BBB about all those and more, but they’re really all the same.

In all cases, someone wants you to deposit a check in your account, send money to them or someone else and “take a cut for yourself.” If you do it, you soon discover the check is counterfeit and have to pay everything back.

Now that so many people have banking apps on their smartphones, it’s no surprise that crooks have come up with a digital version.

How the scam works:

An acquaintance–who might also pose as a potential employer or lender–offers to pay you several hundred bucks (or more) if you will accept money for them through your bank or credit union account.

You give the scammer your bank account number, PIN and contact information. The next thing you know, you get a call or email from your bank. A check deposited into your account didn’t clear, and your account is now overdrawn.

It turns out the scammer used a mobile app from your bank to deposit fake checks into your account. Then, he or she withdrew the cash before the bank spotted the fake. You now have to pay the bank back for whatever the scammer took out.

Tips to Avoid Fake Check Scams:

Here are tips to avoid check scams:

  • Know the consequences of bad credit: Taking cash in exchange for sharing your banking information (or getting a new smartphone contract) may sound tempting. But scammers will leave you owing thousands. These unpaid bills will be sent to a collections agency, and this could make it hard to get a loan, a job or even housing later.
  • Confirm before you withdraw cash: A check can take several days to clear, and, until then, you are responsible for any funds withdrawn against it. To make sure the check cleared, call your bank.
  • Be wary of checks received from unknown individuals: When selling to someone you don’t know, it is safer to accept PayPal, cash or credit card payments.
  • Do not accept overpayments: When selling on Craigslist.org or similar sites, don’t take more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you.
  • Check your online bank statements frequently.Don’t wait for monthly statements. If you see something you don’t recognize, call your bank or credit union immediately.

For More Information

Read more about check scams and banking apps on National Consumers League’s Fraud.org. To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.
This Scam Alert has been sponsored by Western Union, a BBB National Partner.
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