A new program is being introduced to help protect and educate South Carolina consumers from a growing problem -fake check scams.
Participating banks and credit unions are handing out brochures created by the Consumer Financial Institutions to better educate the consumer about these scams.
Carri Lybarker is with the state Department of Consumer Affairs and says the key is to prevent consumers from becoming a victim.
They take many different forms. it can come in the form of the work-at-home scheme, where some body’s going to say, you can process checks for our company. You keep ten percent of the money and just send 90 percent back to us. And once you do that, you wire them the money and it’s gone.
In fake check scams, the consumer receives a genuine-looking check or money order for something and is asked to wire money somewhere in return. Lybarker says the check may be described as an “advance” on millions ….
…or, it could be in the form of a sweepstakes or a lottery where they’re saying you’ve won $4 million, or $600,000. Here’s a check for the fees and taxes. We just need you to cash that and send the fees and taxes back to us and we’ll send you the lump sum of your money.
Lybarker says typically in such scams, you receive a check or money order that looks genuine.
…..and the checks look real. Money orders are even utilized, cashiers checks, and they look 110 percent authentic. And federal law makes it to where whenever a consumer deposits a check or tries to get money, they have to be able to do so quickly, within a day or so. So before the bank or the credit union can even tell that no money was in the account, the damage is done.
Education is the key to scams like this and Lybarker cautions that when someone who supposedly wants to give you money and asks you to send them money in return, it’s likely a scam.
It’s not going to go away. It’s very difficult to trace because a lot of times funds are being transferred via Western Union, which often times you can’t tell who on the other end is picking up this money. So the main point is to educate South Carolina consumers on this type of scam. Know that you don’t get anything for free and most certainly a legitimate sweepstakes or lottery or work-at-home company will not ask you to send them money.
Lybarker says that it’s the old mantra that keeps coming back, “If it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is.”
The new brochure, “Don’t Become a Target,” is being handed out to every consumer who comes in to deposit or withdraw checks or money orders of $1,000 or more. Twenty-two financial institutions in South Carolina are participating in the project.