This time of year a lot of people would love to receive a few thousand dollars they weren't expecting. Unfortunately, scammers know that all too well and their international check scheme can even banks. All the scammers need is for a tiny fraction of people to deposit them the counterfeit checks being sent out in the mail.
Searching online for a job you can do at home? Simply showing interest in email and websites can set the scheme in motion. Overseas scammers collect your information then send it to a middle man in the United States. Investigators say the go-betweens get shipments of fake checks from cohorts overseas and mail them out with secret shopper letters to lists of consumers whose information has been collected from web searches, online work-at-home applications and other sources.
The checks come with specific instructions for cashing. You're asked to be a secret shopper, buy items, complete a survey and wire back the unspent money. Days later- you learn the check or money order you deposited was counterfeit. You're now on the hook for the full amount.
Inspectors say the scam is growing- because so many people are looking for extra income. Work-at-home offers are one of the top sources of counterfeit check and money order scams. Scammers also send fake checks and money orders under the guise of sweepstakes and lotto winnings, payment for an item you're selling online, even payment to for professional services, like legal fees to attorneys.
Remember - no legit person would ever send a complete stranger a check for thousands of dollars out of the blue and trust them to send money back. And if you deposit a check that turns out to be counterfeit- you, and only you, are responsible to pay back the bank any money they've lost.