Here are some examples of typical scams:
In the lottery scam, you receive an email notification claiming that you have won an international lottery (Jamaican Lottery, Spanish Lottery, etc). In order to claim your winnings, you must contact the claims agent, typically via an email address that is most often from a free provider (e.g., Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.). The agent then sends you a claim form to verify your identity. You must then return the form with your personal details, along with copies of your passport and/or driver's license to "verify your true identity." The fraudsters now have enough information to duplicate your identity. In addition, in order to claim the winnings, you are required to wire funds to the fraudsters to cover the transaction, insurance, tax and legal fees associated with receiving their winnings. The victims are required to transfer the money requested via Western Union. You are now out the funds that you have wired to the fraudsters, and the fraudsters have your personal identification to continue to commit fraud.
The Nigerian Purchase Scam is another form of fraud that is becoming widespread in auction sites and on business' ecommerce web sites. A buyer will bid on or seek to purchase big-ticket goods (e.g., cars, boats, etc.) from the web site. The buyer will "accidentally" overpay the seller, stating they "wanted to make sure there were enough funds for shipping." The buyer will then ask the seller to deposit the check and refund the amount of the overpayment. The seller will deposit the counterfeit check and send the overpayment to the buyer prior to the check clearing through the international banking system. The seller is out the funds equal to the overpayment. In addition, the seller could be down the value of the shipped goods if those are sent at the same time. To protect yourself, always be careful when transacting with unknown parties. If you question the legitimacy of a buyer, talk with your branch representative to determine the best way to validate the check and funds prior to shipping any goods or providing a refund for the overpayment.
You get an email or a letter in the mail from a "mystery shopping company" often times the name of the company sounds official. Usually there is a check included or a promise to send a check. They tell you to cash the check and complete an assignment at a major retail store. Then they tell you to take the rest of the money that you didn't spend and send it to another mystery shopper via Western Union. The only problem is that's not a mystery shopper, that's the scammer! The check sent to you was not legitimate, but the bank won't realize it for at least a week. When the check is returned as fraudulent, you become responsible for the charges. Meanwhile, you just sent money to the scammer via Western Union and you're left holding the bag.
If you receive an email or letter in the mail saying you won a lottery and they send you a check or if you sell something on eBay and the buyer pays with a check, you may think you can just take the check to your bank and cash it. Unfortunately, you can't. What's worse, if you cash it in most states, you may be assisting a criminal in passing a counterfeit check, money laundering or worse. Blank checks are stolen every day from individual mail boxes, homes, businesses and even banks. Counterfeiters and scammers use these checks to create scams and frauds.
What can you do?
If you receive a check in the mail that you are not expecting, DO NOT CASH IT. You should call the issuing bank directly to verify that the account is valid and the check is real. If you are the victim of a counterfeit check cashing scam, email the FDIC's Special Activities Section at email@example.com. If you believe you may have fallen victim to this type of scam and wish to report it, please file a complaint with the U.S. government Internet Crime Complaint Center at: http://www.ic3.gov/ or contact them at:
FDIC's Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section
550 17th St., NW, Room F-4040,
Washington, D.C. 20429