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Story Archives: Check scam targets Franklin residents
|Check scam targets Franklin residents|
If the thought of a check for thousands of dollars appearing unannounced in your mailbox sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.
A rash of fake checks, or "dummy checks," have made their way into the hands of a number of area residents, promising easy money for just returning a portion of your winnings or conducting a secret-shopper survey at Wal-Mart.
"It is rampant and has been for several years, actually," said Barry Stevens, President of Progressive Bank. "People need to be aware they are being scammed."
Here's how the scam works.
A victim receives the check, which is sometimes accompanied by a letter congratulating the victim on winning a drawing at a major retailer or a sweepstakes in a magazine.
The victim deposits the check and is asked to return a portion of the money to enter a next round of drawings or to pay some other type of fee or unlock the next round of savings.
The amount of the check ranges between $1,500 and $4,900 because those amounts used to "fly under the radar," according to Stevens.
"They don't anymore," he said.
The scam becomes apparent when the bank upon which the check was drawn does not honor it and it is returned to the victim's bank account as a phony.
By then, the damage is done and the customer is ultimately on the hook for all the money.
"If the customer deposits that check, they become a party to the scam," Stevens said. "It's a crime. It's illegal."
Franklin Parish chief deputy Kevin Cobb said people fall victim to the scam because they want to believe it is true.
"It plays on people's emotions," said Cobb, whose office fields a number of check-scam reports every week.
Because people want to believe they've won some prize, they deposit the checks and begin spending the money.
Since the checks appear to be drawn on real banks, from real accounts, and often are identified with real companies, Cobb said people believe what they read.
"It runs through as a valid check," Cobb said. "But eventually, it will come back and you'll be liable for the money."
Stevens said tellers are trained to look for dummy checks, but the checks are so convincing, sometimes they slip through.
"They try to inquire with the customer and look for whether this is something the customer has presented in the past," Stevens said.
Stevens said one tell-tale sign that unexpected check you're holding is bogus is if you got a letter explaining what it was for.
"99.99 percent of the time, if you got a letter with the check, it's going to be a scam," Stevens said.
Both Cobb and Stevens stressed that, despite the bank's efforts to prevent the checks from being deposited, it is ultimately the customer's responsibility to ensure all checks they deposit into their accounts are legitimate.
Stevens said people can protect their money if they follow one simple rule.
"The age-old truism is still very true," Stevens said. "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true."