Fake Check and Wire Transfer Scam Prevention Tips

October 09, 2019

Advanced fraud fee: Be cautious if contacted via email, telephone or mail and told you are due money from winnings, inheritance or through a lottery. You may be told to send cash or wire to pay for taxes or legal fees in order to claim the promised funds AND if the fraudster is successful in convincing you to send money, additional requests will follow.

Money mule fraud: You act as a “middle person”. The fraudster instructs you to open a new account and mentions money will be deposited into your account shortly. Most often, the fraudster sends you a check to deposit or asks for your online credentials so that the scammer can make a mobile deposit on your behalf. Once the funds are in your account, you are instructed to send the money to someone else; this could be via wire, check, cashier’s check or prepaid cards, such as iTunes gift cards. After you have sent the money, the check that was originally deposited into your account is found to be fraudulent and you are at a loss.

Grandparent scam: Your child, grandchild or other relative calls you in a panic requesting money right away; what do you do? First, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is this person really who they say they are? Can they verify the real relative’s personal information: such as date of birth, place they live, where they work, what college they attended?
  • Could I call someone else to verify if this person is traveling or in danger? Is there a family member to call to confirm the request?
  • Why are they asking me to send money, immediately, using gift cards or a wire?

The scammer is trying to convince you that they are a distressed family member and will mention they are in immediate trouble and need money right away. Don’t “buy” their story; simply hang up and contact family or local police with questions.

Imposter scam: You receive a phone call from the IRS, sheriff’s office or local utility company asking you send money right away to avoid further penalty as you may be in trouble with the law or you are behind on your bills. The scammers have even spoofed the phone number to make it look like you’re receiving a call from the correct person or agency, however, don’t “buy” it. Simply hang up and contact that agency directly to verify legitimacy.

Mortgage loan closing scan: Scammers posing as a real estate agent, title company, escrow officer or attorney, etc., send an email to you asking that closing funds or the down payment be sent to another person or agency as part of the closing process. Homebuyers who are near to their closing date, need to verify these requests over-the-phone or face-to-face; make sure you fully understand where you are sending your money.

Account takeover: Fraudsters steal your online credentials and personal information so they can attempt to make account changes, such as: email address changes, home address changes, wire transfers, etc. These changes are being attempted without your knowledge and money can be sent without your consent as those changes “appear legitimate”. It’s important to review your account statements and personal information often and if you see any unauthorized changes or transactions, contact UBT.

hijacked customer emails: Your email can be compromised and used for fraudulent activity. How does this happen? The scammer steals your email information and logs into your email account. The scammer finds previous correspondence between you and other high-profiled contacts (such as your banker) and sends an email from your account (posing as you) asking funds be wired from your account and sent to someone else. It’s important to review your account statements and change your password often to minimize this risk. Contact UBT with any concerns about unauthorized activity.

RELATIONSHIP SCAMS: While plenty of successful relationships begin online, scammers also use online dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and social media to trick you into sending them money. These imposters create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money. Slow down and talk to someone you trust. These scammers want to rush you, often professing love right away. Never send money to an online love interest you’ve never met in person. You may never get it back.

Lottery or prize scams: Victims of these scams are notified through unsolicited communications that they have won a lottery or prize. Victims are usually required to pay a processing fee or taxes before any winnings are released. Often, victims receive a fake check as an advance payment to help pay the fee or taxes; fraudsters instruct the victims to deposit the fake check and send the fee or taxes via wire transfer. Once the check is returned, victims are left responsible for the amount lost.

  • Never send money to pay for taxes or processing fees. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require a fee to enter or improve your chances of winning.
  • Do not deposit a check received for advance payment. Contact your Attorney General’s office to validate the legitimacy of the prize.

Relationship scams: Fraudsters create fake profiles on online dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet potential scam victims. Fraudsters build online relationships and convince victims to send money to them for various reasons (e.g. medical expenses, school expenses, and charity).

  • Never send money to someone you met online and have never met in person.
  • Be cautious of individuals you meet online claiming to be from the United States but are currently overseas “conducting business” or “in the military”.
  • Be leery of individuals that plan to visit but are prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone wrong.

Employment or job scams: Fraudsters utilize online job boards, website banners, spam email, and other websites to recruit victims. The job offers generally are advertised as Work from Home, claim to pay great wages, and targeted at homemakers, college students, and others who want to make a little extra money.

  • Most employment and job scams involve receiving a fake check as an advance payment to help pay for training materials or certifications. Victims deposit the check and send payment for materials, then realize the check received was fraudulent.
  • Be cautious of job opportunities that request your debit card or bank account information.
  • Never accept a mystery shopper job where you are required to deposit a check and mystery shop a wire transfer service.
  • Be leery of sending money or paying a fee or other employment expenses that will guarantee you a job.

Overpayment scams: Fraudsters target victims who are selling items through classified ads or online sales sites. Check overpayment scam occurs when a fraudster responds and offers to purchase the item for sale with a check, then provides a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price for the item. The scammer asks the victim to wire back the difference after the check is deposited.

  • Don’t accept payments for more than the amount of the item. Never send the buyer the difference via a wire transfer.
  • If you accept payment by check, ensure the check is drawn on a local bank so you can verify the check is legitimate.

Card cracking scams: Scammers entice victims to make "easy money" usually online. This particular type of scam turns the victim into an accomplice to the crime. Learn more here.

General Scam Prevention Tips

  1. Never give your personal or financial information to someone unless you have initiated the contact and have verified you know who you are communicating with.

  2. Do not allow someone to conduct activity through your account. For example, never provide your debit card number or PIN or online banking credentials to another individual to conduct transactions.

  3. Never send money (e.g. Cashier’s Checks, cash, or wire transfers) to someone who asks you to accept a deposit for them and send them the money.

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