I think you’re old at about 30 because that’s when people start to look gross.— Sergio, age 9
My client called in tears. She had received a check in the mail for $3,000. It looked very legitimate, and was made out to her. She was convinced God had answered her prayers about money problems. Over the objections of her children, she took the check to the bank and deposited it.
Then, the check bounced. Not only did she owe fees for one returned check, but her own checks that had been written based on that extra money had also bounced. Lastly, the scammer also had her banking information.
Well, maybe it should be obvious. Like your parents taught you: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you receive an unexpected check from a lottery you never entered or a loan you never applied for, it’s probably not worth the paper it’s printed on. Sadly, these creeps target senior citizens, who are vulnerable and often no longer able to make the prudent decisions that they once made.
Last spring, AARP published an article in its monthly bulletin saying the fake check scams are thriving, accounting for nearly a third of all complaints to the National Consumers League.
Usually, it works like this: You’re instructed to deposit the check and then forward some portion of the deposit elsewhere, typically by wire transfer, as advance fees that will allow you to collect a jackpot. These fees may be small, often as little as $20.
By the time your bank discovers the check is fake, which can take two weeks, the scammers have gotten their forwarded loot ($20 each from how many persons?) and you’re on the hook for funds drawn from the deposit.
Spotting a fake check can be tricky. AARP offered some tip-offs to the rip-offs:
While on the subject of expensive and aggravating scams, here’s a reminder that you can
block telemarketing calls using the National Do Not Call Registry. This program allows
consumers to register their phone numbers and be placed on a national list of numbers that
telemarketing companies are not allowed to call. To register by phone call 1-888-382-1222 or
register online at www.donotcall.gov. On the web site, you can also verify whether your number
is already listed. Due to changes in the law in February of 2008, once you register for this list,
you will remain on it permanently. You do not have to re-register.
When you receive a telemarketing call, say “Put me on your ‘do not call’ list.” The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 requires companies to keep this list. Your request must be honored for 10 years. However, nonprofit organizations do not have to comply with this law.
For junk mail, you can register with the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. How to do that, along with much more information, can be found on the DMA’s web site: DMAchoice.org. If you don’t have a computer, you can write to them. Send your name and address to: DMA Mail Preference Service, P. O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.
Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week.