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We recently received a head’s up from a local police officer after his daughter was sent a fraudulent cashier check in the mail. At first glance, it looks legitimate, but fortunately, the officer is aware of this type of scam and directed his daughter to ignore it.

fake-check-screenshot

(The image as been redacted to protect the consumer’s privacy)

How can we tell it’s fake?

The address on the check is a fake company, in a fake city. The company listed as “PlanierFIX engineering” does not exist. Also, the city is written as “Pittford, New York 14534.” Although there is a real city with that zip code called Pittsford, with an “s”, the scammer misspelled the name.

What made this scam more interesting to us was the envelope in which it was sent.  A legitimate company headquartered in Southboro, MA was listed on the return address. That company confirmed with us that they did not send the letter and that they have no connection with PlanierFIX engineering.

This type of check cashing scam isn’t uncommon.

In most cases, the scammer finds victims by searching ads and websites where people are selling things. In this case, Kaitlyn was using the online clothing exchange site, Poshmark. It’s unclear how the scammer obtained her address. Usually the scammer will send a check in an amount greater than the selling price and ask you to wire them back the difference. In other instances, they simply claim they are having trouble with their bank and need cash immediately. They give you the check in exchange for cash.

In this case, no financial harm came to Kaitlyn. However, if you do deposit the check, be warned.  Federal Law requires that consumers have access to deposited funds within 1 to 5 days. If Kaitlyn deposited the check thinking she’s an extra $1,100 richer, she’d be shocked when the check processed and she realized she spent money she didn’t actually have.

Although it’s uncertain what the scammer’s plans were in this situation, Kaitlyn did the right thing and did not cash the check.

Protect yourself if this happens to you:

  • Check if the company and city actually exist. Look for slight variations in spelling.
  • If you get a check from someone you don’t know or for a reason you can’t determine, don’t cash it. If you’re selling something and accept payment by check the FTC suggests asking for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank’s phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the check or from the person who gave you the check.
  • Never wire money to strangers. There are other options for exchanging money. Check out our post on online shopping.

For more information on check cashing scams, check out our blog. We’ve broken down several variations of this scam. The United States Postal Service also put together a great bulletin with some facts about fake checks.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

 

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