Contact 2: BBB releases new study on check scams

ST. LOUIS - A new study from the Better Business Bureau suggests more than 500,000 people may have been victimized by counterfeit check operations in 2017.

Check scams are disguised in a variety of ways and there’s a good chance you’ve been targeted. With millions of fake checks worth billions of dollars circulating every year we hope this information will help you spot the warning signs.

“This is serious. It is real. I had to repay the bank $2,000 in the end.” Said St. Louisan Tammy Wright.

Wright’s son was in college when he was sent a letter asking him to become a secret shopper. Enclosed was a check and instructions to deposit it, then withdraw the cash and send it to two different addresses which he did. The bank soon told him the check was bad and he’d have to repay the money.

“I’ve had this happen numerous times in the past probably five years at least.” Said Keith Williams.

Williams hasn’t fallen for the many scams attempted on his painting business, but his story illustrates the variety of check frauds out there.

“All of the cases we’re aware of involve Nigerian scammers. Many of the fake checks and counterfeit cashier checks and money orders are actually shipped from Nigeria.” Said Steve Baker, International BBB Investigator.

The Federal Trade Commission reports wire transfer is the most common way scammers get money from victims. Most of the wire transfers are sent through Western Union and MoneyGram. The fraud was effective because wiring money is like sending cash as soon as the money is picked up, it’s gone, and victims have no ability to get their money back as they might have had if they’d used a credit card.

“According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Database, the biggest age range for victims of check fraud is 20 to 29. It’s not just your senior citizens, all of us can be victimized by this fraud.” Said Michelle Corey, President, and CEO, Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Missouri & Southern Illinois

No legitimate business asks for payment by Western Union, MoneyGram, or by gift cards. Requests for payment through these avenues are one of the hallmarks of fraud. It’s never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back. If you think you’ve seen a mystery shopping scam, you can file a complaint here.

Here's a link to the BBB’s check fraud report.