Monday, June 25, 2007

How To Spot A Scam, Part 1

I have been seeing a lot of scams coming via email in my spambox lately. I would say that it consists 90% of the email that my filters catch.

One of my clients got suckered in by one he got through traditional postal mail recently. And now that he has been suckered once, he seems to have been put on their list that they pass around.

The particular letter that he fell victim for told him that he had won the lottery in Canada and sent a legitimate-looking check along with the letter. "This check needs to be cashed to pay for your 'government taxes'" the letter told him. He deposited the check, and the bank put a 10-day business hold on it. Had I known about it, I could easily have been able to spot the scam from the letter. The first clue was that the letter started out "Dear Winner." And, if I had been able to run the code at the bottom of the check, I would have been able to determine that the routing code did not match the bank to which the check claimed it was from.

Here is a link where you can input the routing number from the bottom of the check to see what bank it belongs to. The routing number is usually a 9-digit code on the left at the bottom of the check.

***Update*** If it turns out that the bank code matches the bank name on the check, call the bank with information you find on the internet to verify that the account number (usually the number on the right side at the bottom of the check) matches an account they have there. If it matches, then verify that the name on the check is the same as the name on the account.

Another thing to look for: if the letter, return address or the phone number to call is in Canada (especially Toronto), then that is another red flag. Here is a link that allows you to search by phone number.

If they tell you to cash the check and then wire the money via Western Union, that is another red flag as the money can apparently be picked up anywhere in the world (not just where you designate it be sent).

If they tell you that they are sending you a check to pay for taxes or some "handling fee" or any other fee, that is another clue it probably is a scam.

After having talked with the bank regarding the fraud that had been perpetrated against him, I made an appointment to speak with the fraud investigator. I met him at his office and he showed me hundreds of fake checks ranging from Versachecks (checks printed using a computer program and check stock you can buy at any office supply store) to sophisticated money orders that could only be told by looking at them very closely. (Check the watermark and the security strip on money orders which are like the ones in your dollar bills). Many of them had absolutely no water mark and/or only a slightly printed security strip on the outside of the check. (The fake security strip could not be seen through the check from the other side.)

Then check to see if the phone number on the back of the check is present. Many of the fake ones leave this information off (some only had internet addresses instead of the phone number). Here are the phone numbers to call if you think you may have received a fake money order or want to verify the one you have is real:

AAA Visa Traveler's Cheques 1-800-227-6811
American Express Gift Cheques 1-800-221-7282
American Express Travelers Cheques 1-800-525-7641
Bank of America Money Order or Cashiers Check1-800-756-3333
Circle K Money Orders 1-800-569-3585
Continental Express Money Order 1-714-569-0899
Travelers Express Checks 1-800-542-3590
US Treasury Checks 1-804-697-2605
US Postal Money Orders 1-866-459-7822
Western Union Money Orders 1-800-999-9660
Wal-Mart Money Orders 1-800-542-3590
CVS Pharmacy Money Orders 1-800-746-7287

In part 2, I will post questions you need to ask if you think someone is trying to scam you out of your money using internet, email or postal mail fraud schemes.


free weight loss said...

your scam thing I thought was really helpful. Although I have never been scamed I will use the information when I offered certain thins

P M Prescott said...

Great post, very helpful.
I have one real gripe with a certain credit card company. They send purchase checks with the billing statement. These can easily be grabbed out of your mailbox, (weve had numerous warnings not to put payments in mailboxes to be picked by the carrier as these checks are being stolen). It's like having your credit card stolen without knowing its gone until too late. I really wish they would stop this practise.