Authorities warn check scam is evolving

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Scammers’ tactics are evolving as they continue to try to con you out of your money.

The check scam consists of someone sending you a check, asking you to cash it and then send them a portion of that money. Now, the bad guys are making their offer look more legitimate.

Recently, a check was sent to a WINK News employee. The business name on the check is a real business and the bank on the check is a real bank. The sender also sent the check by using Priority Mail to make it look important. A tactic that scammers are now commonly using.

“If we get something like [a check sent Priority Mail] it grabs our attention, right away,” explained Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Specialist Beth Schell. “So we think, ‘Oh something is in there that’s really important,’ we pull it out and it’s a check and we think, ‘oh it must be legit because whoever sent it paid money to send it to me.'”

While our employee just received a check in the mail with no instructions, Schell says that is not uncommon.

“Sometimes the suspect will wait and they’ll send the check by itself and they’ll follow up with instructions,” she explained. “But always it seems to come with instructions: deposit the check, pull money out, and wire transfer the funds back to us.”

So what are some red flags everybody needs to look out for?

“If you get that check and it’s just a sudden check that’s popped up in the mailbox, or it’s something that’s just too good to be true, you’re selling something and you know somebody wants to overpay you for what you’re selling the product for, you know red flags come with that,” Schell said.

Another important note, the banks aren’t experts at scams so do not expect your bank teller to automatically pick out the check that is worthless. The reality is much different. Schell explains it could take between 10 and 14 days for the bank to discover the check is fraudulent.

“Well by that time, if you’ve deposited it, you’ve assumed the check is good, you’ve withdrawn the money as you’re told to do and you send it off, then you’re stuck,” she said. “You’re victimized really in essence twice, because the scammer has you sending the money to him or her the first time, then of course when you spend the bank’s money, they’re going to want their money back as well so it’s a bad scam to get caught in.”

One more tip the sheriff’s office shared is when in doubt, have them check it out for you. The sheriff’s office has a fraud line you can call and they will look into your issue to help find out if it is a scam or not. That number is 239-258-3292.

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