Tis the Season…of Scams

The Holiday Season seems to bring out the best and worst of human nature.  On the worst side are the scams that are designed to cheat honest people out of their money.  As we get closer to Christmas and as the economy worsens, it is important that we all be aware that scammers are keeping busy. 

Some of the more common scams that we see include:

  1. Lottery Scam: This is one of the most popular counterfeit check scams because it is successful. The victim will receive a letter or e-mail informing them that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes.  They are given a counterfeit check to finance the taxes and fees associated with collecting the prize.  They are asked to cash or deposit the check and wire the money to an individual who is collecting the “tax”.  It is difficult to detect this scam because the checks are usually lower dollar amounts (less than $3,000) and technology makes it easy to counterfeit real bank checks.  The victims are also told not to disclose their good fortune until they collect their grand prize. The reason this is so successful is that it plays on an American dream. If you receive one of these letters and checks, ask someone at your bank before you fall victim.
  2. Internet Auction Scam: In this scam, the victim places an item for sale on the Internet (not necessarily on e-bay, often on local classified websites). The winning bidder contacts them to arrange payment, but there is a catch. The buyer is overseas and shipping needs to be arranged. Payment is sent in the form of a counterfeit check for thousands of dollars in excess of the purchase price. The buyer is asked to wire the excess money to the buyer’s shipper who will arrange pickup of the item (they are often told that there is a little extra money for them to keep for their trouble to sweeten the deal). The money is wired before the check comes back, leaving the victim out the money.
  3. Internet Auction Scam 2: In this scam, the victim receives counterfeit money orders for their items.  In most cases, the item is sent before the counterfeit is detected and the victim is out the money and they item that they were selling.  Most money orders have instructions for validating their authenticity.  For example, some have a circle on each of the money orders that will change colors if you rub it, or they have a telephone number to call.  Postal money orders can be verified by calling 1-866-459-7822.

These scams are always evolving and we see new twists all of the time.  Education is the best form of scam prevention. Just remember if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

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