Here is a letter that I plan to send to Oprah about her recent show on scams.
My name is Shawn Mosch, and in 2002 my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam while selling a car online. At first we were embarrassed and felt stupid. How could we fall for a scam? But we soon realized that the most stupid thing that we did was to trust our bank when they told us that the check had cleared and the money was safe to use.
We knew right away that we needed to do something to educate others about this scam, so we started the website ScamVictimsUnited.com. In the first two years of operation, we helped to stop over 2 million dollars from going into these scams. Through our message board we have offered support to other victims, and have helped to save thousands of people from becoming scam victims. Becoming a scam victim puts you on an emotional and financial rollercoaster, and it has been very rewarding to know that we have helped to save so many people from going through this.
We have been very vocal over the years, through our website, the media and working with other crime fighting agencies. In June 2007, Shawn had the honor of speaking at the National Center for Victims of Crime Annual Conference in Washington D.C. This is why we were so excited to hear that the Oprah show would be focusing on these scams in the December 4th show.
We were glad to see that the show focused on more than just the 419/Advance Fee Scams which are the ones that people most commonly think of when speaking of scams. In so many of the popular scams out there right now the scammer will send a counterfeit check . . . weather it is for an item that you are selling online, deposit on an apartment in the renter scam, the first check in the lottery scam, or your payroll check in the work from home/secret shopper scams . . . the counterfeit check is a common thread between all of theses scams.
Many of the scam victims will do all of the right things, like some of the people on your show. Since they do not know the person that they are getting the check from they will take the check to the bank and ask questions, but the problem is that often the bank employees will give the wrong answers. Bank employees will tell people that the check has cleared or that funds are available, which gives people the false sense of security that the money is good for them to use. That is why I was so glad to hear Sid Kirchheimer say on your show that people needed to wait until the check is money is collected on the check, not just “cleared” or “available”. I feel that knowing this one piece of information could be the most important thing to help save people from becoming victims of these scams. We would like to see this information posted at all bank teller locations so that all customers have all of the facts that they need. We are also encouraging businesses like Western Union and Money Gram to post warnings at all of their locations which will bring attention to these scams when people are coming in to wire money. Currently, there are warnings online, but these only help the people that go online and look for them. If you do not know that the situation that you are entering into is a scam, it is not likely that you would go to the Western Union or Money Gram website and read their Customer Protection section before you go into one of their actual locations to make the wire transfer. The information would be more helpful if it was available at the store locations.
Thank you so much for your show on scams, and I sincerely hope that you continue to do more shows on this topic. These con men are good at what they do, and every day they are coming up with new scams or new twists on old scams, so there is always something new to talk about on this topic. Education is the key to fighting these scams . . . continue to educate us all!