Growing Problems With Craigslist Being Used In Fake Check Scams
Craigslist, the US Postal Inspection Department, and the FBI Cyber Crimes Unit recently issued a warning to consumers that an increase in fake check and counterfeit cashier's checks are being associated with Craigslist ads. The scams working through this site can take many forms, but the majority involves bad or counterfeit checks that even banks can't tell from the real thing. Unfortunately, the account holder depositing the check is being held financially responsible for all loses.
With high end technology becoming more easily accessible, many of these checks are being made on home computers with the aid of software programs like Photoshop and printed using high-end printers on genuine looking paper. The problem is that they look and feel just like the real thing and many even have watermarks and embossed numbering as would be expected on a regular cashier's check. In many cases, even though the routing and bank account numbers are real, the check is still bogus.
Recent reports in newscasts cite several scams that have resurfaced resulting in a loss of trust and financial ruin of those who used this site with the best intensions. In one case reported by news sources an individual posted an ad for a roommate. A girl from the UK responded and sent a check for double the amount requested. When questioned about it she stated her boss had cut the check for the wrong amount and asked to have the balance sent back. Fortunately, the bank was called the minute money was requested and the scam failed.
One of the most popular scams on Craigslist is targeting those looking for work. As reported in a recent newscast in New Mexico an individual was seen picking up numerous empty envelopes from a FedEx store and then returned later to mail them. Clerks in the office became suspicious and contacted the US Postal Inspection Department. An investigation found that the individual had, in fact, mailed envelopes that contained counterfeit checks. It turned out he had answered a "working from home" ad and was asked to mail checks to a list of recipients that had been provided. The person who thought they were hired to do the job had no knowledge about being part of a scam and barely escaped prosecution on fraud charges.
Anytime contact is made through the Internet it is important to remember that you don't really know who is on the other end of the line. You also don't know where they are from either so use caution and be wary. A few of the tips issued by Craigslist, the FBI, and the US Postal Inspection Department include:
- If you receive a check from any source that was unexpected, call the bank to make sure it's legitimate.
- Verify that the name on the check is actually the holder of the account.
- Make sure there are sufficient funds in the account to cover the check and ask them to place a hold on the account.
- Never wire money to a stranger. If they send you too much and request you return the difference it's a sign that you are the target of a scam.
- If selling something, don't accept more money than what was agreed to. Remember con artists are very skilled at their craft and may provide a plausible story that's totally bogus.
- Be wary if buying something and seller wants to use an Escrow Service you've never heard of. Always check it out first.
- Stay local when selling and looking for work that way you can say you will only accept local checks. Even in this case, however, check out the funding source prior to depositing the check or turning over any products.
Most importantly, if you believe you've been scammed, report it immediately to as many law enforcement agencies as possible. This would include filing a complaint with the US Internet Fraud Complaints Center, US Postal Service Investigation Department, FBI Cyber Crimes Unit, and local police. Your best defense is a good offense and to take a proactive stance.
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