Skip Navigation

Avoid These Popular Scams - Part 3

Video Transcript

Hey, my name is Chris with MoneyBurst, and welcome back to the third video in our series on fraud, where my goal is to help you keep your money safe.

We've been talking all about how to protect yourself against fraud, and those people who are out there trying to trick you out of your money. Today, let's talk about a classic type of scam that has been around for years, and this is the check scam.

Now, for some of you, it may have been years since you've even written or received a physical check. But it doesn't mean that scammers have abandoned this technique altogether. Essentially, check scams involve a scammer sending a potential target a very large check with instructions to send back a portion of that money to another person or another company. These checks are most definitely fraudulent, so the victim is going to be stuck with a responsibility of returning this money back. But, sadly, by the time this happens they've already sent money out to the scammers and will have to use their own personal money to cover the difference.

So, at this point you might be saying, 'Chris, come on. I'm never going to fall for such an obvious scam.' And you may actually be so vigilant that you could avoid these schemes. But let me tell you, these scammers are very clever. And they are developing some really convincing strategies. So, I wanted to go over a couple of examples that could trick even the most skeptical person.

First, we have the 'secret shopper' scam. Now, if you aren't familiar with what secret shopping is, this is a real job where a regular person is paid to purchase an item and then evaluate the customer service of a particular business. Usually, the shopper is given enough money to purchase an item, in addition to what they are paid for their evaluation.

I've actually done this several times in the past years to make some extra cash, so it's a real thing. But the scam works like this: the fraudster creates a job posting, or even creates a fake website advertising a secret shopper position. When you go out and respond to this job posting, you're sent a check and then told to deposit this into your personal bank account. Then, they want you to wire pretty much most of the money to a third party to purchase some product in order to test it out and evaluate a company's customer service. This all sounds very, very believable.

Now the way to spot something like this is that using a wire transfer is not really a normal way to purchase anything. So, this should be a major red flag for you. Also, always take the time to verify any job posting that you come across online. Because really anyone at this point can create a fake company and a job posting to go with it.

Another version of the check scam is the 'overpayment.' Now this is a new and very sneaky variation that involves sites like eBay and Craigslist. So, the victim of this scam is selling an item on one of these websites. It's a legitimate post that they've put up. Their item is purchased, and then they are paid with a check that is usually two to five times the agreed upon amount.

Then the scammer reaches out and contacts the seller and says, 'Hey, I accidentally wrote the wrong amount on the check. Could you just send back the difference to me?' The scammer warms up with the seller by saying, 'Look, just keep an extra fifty dollars for your troubles, and then just wire the rest back to me. Everything's going to be great.'

See, this is very believable. I told you these scammers, they're getting very, very clever with this stuff. One thing to keep in mind is when you're selling any item online, it's always great to just be cautious. And if you can't avoid taking checks altogether, there are so many better options out there right now for sending money back and forth. You can just say, you know what, I'm not taking checks.

But if for some reason you have to take a check from someone, and it is for the wrong amount, do not deposit that check into your account. Immediately send it back and ask for them to write a new check for the correct amount. Or, even better, ask for a money order or cashier's check because they are a much safer, and verifiable option.