Wire Transers

A recent article about scams and wire transfers caught my eye the other day.  Here are time facts from the article . . .

Rules governing wire transfers place a larger burden on account holders than laws on credit cards or debit card . . . . {the} bank says {the victim} may not have met required security requirements on his computer system — even though he has secured wireless, firewalls, anti-virus software and other protection — and so, the bank may not be liable to pay him back. 

I get really frustrated when I see things like this.  Why is it that the banks can sit back and do nothing, and put all of the blame on the customer!?!?!  When do the banks have to stand up and say “There are things we could have done to stop this, so we are liable also.”

Eight years . . .

Eight years ago this month my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam when our bank told us that a cashier’s check we received was good, clear, verified and that we would have no problems with it.  Off of that information, we went forward with a transaction.  One week later the bank contacted us to let us know that the check was counterfeit, and that WE were 100% liable for the money . . . even though they had told us it was good, clear and verified.
It was this situation that brought us to create the website ScamVictimsUnited.com, where we warn people about scams, offer resources and advice, and allow people to talk with other victims on our message board.  In the first two years of our site being operational we helped stop over $2 million dollars from going into scams.

Now, you would think that eight years later things would have changed.  Some things have, but even today we see victims coming to our site who brought these checks to the bank and were told that they were good, clear or verified . . . sometimes by more than one bank employee . . . so the exact same situation that happened to us eight years ago is still happening to people today.
Until laws can be changed to hold the banks accountable for telling the customers that these checks are good, clear and verified and then later hold the bank customer liable when it comes back that they are NOT a true check, education is the best way we have to fight these scams.

What can you do?

Write to your law makers and tell them that you want to see banks held liable for releasing funds on checks that they have told customers are good, clear or verified, and then later reversed those words to hold the customer liable.

Sign our petition to ask for stronger consumer protection laws.  If the banks are liable for the money lost, and not the customer, then they will change their practices and make SURE that every penny is accounted for before they release the money to the customer.

Contact your bank and ask them if you brought in a cashier’s check for $4000, how long would it take to know you could use the money, with no worries about the check.  If their answer included terms like “clear“, “good” or “verified‘ you may want to read the information we have on what these terms really mean, and then armed with that information you may want to speak to the bank manager about better education on counterfeit checks for his staff, or go and find a bank that already does understand these items and can therefore better protect you and your money.


ATM scam

The FBI and police across the country are seeing cases of people having their entire bank accounts drained in ATM scams. The criminals will attach a face plate onto an existing ATM machine over the slot that you would swipe your card through. The face plate will record your account and pin number, and the scammers will just have to retrieve that information later.

In another version, the face plate covers the entire screen of the ATM. They will sometimes even create a sign that says that “We are testing out a new system, so your screen options may have changed” so that you are not quite as alarmed when the machine does not work like it should. When you enter your PIN number, the ATM will appear to reject and “eat” your card. The scammers will later come and retrieve both your card, and the PIN number you entered on their fake touch screen

How to Protect Yourself

If you notice that the ATM machine looks different than the last time you were at it, do not use it.
Run your finger along the card slot before you swipe the card. If you feel little prongs. which is how the scammers get the card back out, then do not use that ATM.
Use the ATM machines in bank lobbies. These are less likely to be targeted by scammers.

Ponzi Schemes

Are you interested in knowing

– What a Ponzi scheme is
– What you should look for to detect possible Ponzi activity
– Why some banks have been charged with “aiding and abetting” the accused Ponzi perpetrators
– What should I do when a Ponzi scheme is suspected

Then you should join Bank Law Stuff for their webinar on Ponzi Schemes on September 21st.

Consumer Law & Policy Blog sees my point

I just got done reading the article at the Consumer Law and Policy Blog entitled How Chase Bank Almost Helped a Teenager Get Scammed.  This story points out exactly what we at Scam Victims United have been talking about since 2003.  The banks will tell people that the checks are “clear”, “good” or “verified” but none of those words mean anything about the customer’s protection from risk when these checks come back as counterfeit.  The bank will still hold the customer liable for the entire amount.

I think this is wrong.  When the bank employee tells you that the check is “clear”, “good” or “verified” that should be the same as a verbal contract, and if something should come up later with that same check the BANK should hold some, if not all, of the liability.  Isn’t that the job of the bank, to verify these checks?  

This is why we have started the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/view/create_scam_education_and_awareness_programs asking for a change in these laws and better consumer protection against theses scams.  We have also gone out to local high schools to give presentations to the students in order to educate them about these scams, and the banking terms.  We need to give not only our teens, but everyone, the tools that they need to protect themselves from these scams.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

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Sign our petition for Scam Education and Awareness Programs

Prevent overdraft loans

This is some great information from AFFIL that I had to share with you.

Starting on August 15, your bank cannot charge you overdraft loans unless you authorize them to. This is great news – no more surprise $34 charges for overdrawing your account by $1! Instead, transactions will be declined at no cost if you don’t have enough money in your account.

But, your bank or credit union will probably try to convince you to opt-in to overdraft “protection.” In 2008, banks made almost $24 billion on overdraft loans, and they’re going to miss this cash. To keep it coming, they may try to convince you to enroll in overdraft protection which will trigger a huge fee for each small overdraft. This is a bad deal for you, but a great deal for them.

It’s easy to protect yourself — just do nothing! Don’t opt-in to overdraft protection, and make sure your friends and family don’t either.

If you think you are likely to overdraw your account, talk to your bank or credit union about another option.

Sign up for a line of credit
Link your checking account to your savings account or credit card
Read more about these options from the Center for Responsible Lending (and check out their funny overdraft video while you’re at it).

Your bank may already be asking you to opt-in to an overdraft program. Don’t fall for it. Just do nothing when they ask you to opt-in.

Bank of America Settlement

I found a great article on the Bank of America Settlement with the FTC.

In my last post I noted the beginnings of some positive movement by consumer protection agencies that have been largely dormant and, in some cases like the United States Trustee program, actively anti-consumer. A few weeks ago, as Katie Porter noted in a recent post, Bank of America (BOA) reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission with respect to certain mortgage overcharges, including overcharges in bankruptcy, on mortgages formerly serviced by Countrywide Mortgage. The settlement requires reimbursement to consumers who were overcharged. BOA, in addition to agreeing not to lie, steal, or file documents without reviewing them, will also have to follow notice procedures similar to those that are already required or are likely to be required for all mortgage companies once new Bankruptcy Rule 3002.1 becomes effective in December, 2011. The United States Trustee (UST) Program assisted the FTC in its efforts. This settlement is the first significant positive result of increased UST scrutiny of mortgage lenders, although the extent of the UST’s participation is not known.

To read the rest of the article go to http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/2010/07/bank-of-america-settlement-with-ftc-raises-some-questions.html#more

Bank of America

I just had to share this with all of you.  I found it at http://showdowninamerica.org/edda-lopez-petition

Edda Lopez entered into an agreement with her previous mortgage company under a federal program, the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Edda complied with the three-month trial period and was then notified that her trial-period mortgage payment would be fixed for the next five years, at $2100/mo.

Unfortunately, once Bank of America took over the servicing of her mortgage, they reneged on this agreement, and increased her payments to $3100/mo. When Edda called Bank of America to find out why her payments had increased, she was told that her home was already in foreclosure and set to auction on June 28.

It is difficult to interpret Bank of America’s decision as being anything other than willfully cruel. Ms. Lopez is a disabled widow who nonetheless complied with her agreed-upon mortgage amount, and is now facing homelessness after living in her home since 1996.

If you agree with me that this is wrong, please go to http://showdowninamerica.org/edda-lopez-petition and sign the petition.

Good news for some homeowners

In a press release from the FTC it was announced that Countrywide, who was accquired by Bank of America in 2008, will be paying $108 million to homeowners who were struggeling to keep their homes and Countrywide collected exsessive fees from.

“Life is hard enough for homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgage. To have a major loan servicer like Countrywide piling on illegal and excessive fees is indefensible,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “We’re very pleased that homeowners will be reimbursed as a result of our settlement.”

The bank took advantage of the fact that these people were in an emotional place while they were making these choice because they feared that they could loose their home.  They trusted what the bank employees were telling them, and as my husband and I learned years ago, you cannot always trust that the information that they are giving you is true and accurate, even when you think you are asking the right questions.

To read all of the information on this case and the settlement with the FTC, you can go to

When scam victims are arrested

Finding out that you have become a victim of a scam is scary enough, but if you are also arrested and being charged with defrauding the bank it becomes a living nightmare.  One of the things that can help is understanding the definition of some of the words being throw around by lawyers and other officers of the courts.

Arraignment: An arraignment is not a trial, it is where you are read the charges and asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty).  It is at arraignment that the first court date is usually scheduled.  Make sure that you have an attorney present at your arraignment.
Burden of Proof:  The party that files the complaint carries the burden of proof, which is proving that there is enough evidence for a case.  In many cases where a scam victim is being charged with trying to defraud the bank and being a willing participate in the scam, the only “proof” that the prosecution has is that the defendant presented a counterfeit document.
Discovery: The discovery is the pre-trial exchange of information between attorneys.
Indictment: This is a document that basically sums up the case . . . the charges, the people involved, the court in which the case will be heard.
Indictment: This is a document that basically sums up the case . . . the charges, the people involved, the court in which the case will be heard.