One of the best ways to protect yourself from the many scams circulating on the Internet via email and over the telephone is to never, ever, ever wire money to someone you don’t know personally via Western Union or Moneygram.
Money wiring services are one of the scammers’ favorite tools because it’s like sending them cash. Once they pick up the money, it’s gone. You have no recourse for getting it back. The scammer picks up the money in another state or, more likely, another country. Most use fake ID so there’s absolutely no way to trace the criminal.
The fake check scam is a common way that scammers use Western Union and Moneygram to bilk you out of money. You might get the check for a variety of reasons. Common ones include the following:
-You’ve supposedly won a lottery, and the check is for “taxes” on your winnings. You’re instructed to cash it, wire the funds to a “tax official,” and then await your winnings. Your prize never comes, and the check proves to be fake. Now you’re responsible for repaying your bank for the money you wired to the scammer.
-You’ve been hired as a secret shopper, and you’re supposed to evaluate Western Union or Moneygram. You get a large check, which you’re told to cash so you can deduct your “pay” and wire the rest to a designated person as a secret shopping mission. After you send the money, the check is returned as a fake and you owe all the money you sent.
-A supposed buyer responds to your ad on Craigslist or a similar classified ad site. He sends you a check for much more than your asking your price, claiming the overage is for shipping fees. He tells you to cash the check and wire the difference to his shipper. Soon the check is returned as a fraud and you’re out the entire amount.
There are many other variations on this scam, but they all involve cashing a check and wiring the money via Western Union or Moneygram to a person you’ve never met. Check out the video at the top of this article for a new story on this scam, which is hitting people around the country.
How do you avoid it? DON’T wire money to strangers. No matter how much you want to believe it, you didn’t win the lottery or land a dream job shopping for a living or sell your item that quickly and easily on Craigslist. If you cash that check and send money off to a scammer, you’ll be left holding the bag. At best, your bank account will be drained. At worst, your credit could be ruined and you could even face a charge of passing a fake check.