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.

 

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!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at
http://shopittous.blogspot.com/

Sign our petition for Scam Education and Awareness Programs
http://www.change.org/petitions/view/create_scam_education_and_awareness_programs

No, you didn’t win the Pepsi Lottery

Here is an email that got past my Spam filter.

This is to inform you that your e-mail has won you a total sum of £950,000.00 GBP (NINE HUNDRED & FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS) in the Pepsi lottery of 2010. To claim your prize Contact Shaw Hendrick at: shawhendrick-pepsi@admin.in.th

Name:
Address:
Mobile No:
Age:
Sex:
Occupation:
Country:

NOTE: ALL REPLIES MUST BE ADDRESSED TO Shaw Hendrick: shawhendrick-pepsi@admin.in.th
Judith Hodge
Public Announcer

First, you have to enter a contest/lottery/sweepstakes in order to win.  Second, I am going to guess if there was a Pepsi Lottery going on, they would have ads EVERWHERE telling people about it.  Third, if this person really worked for Pepsi, they would have an official Pepsi Company email address.

So how does this scam play out?  I am going to guess that you will either be asked for your bank account information so that they can directly deposit your winnings, but instead will take everything from your account.  The other option is that they will send you a cashier’s check for your winnings, and you will have to send a portion of that check back to them (maybe to cover legal fees for your winnings) but the problem will come AFTER you wire them the money and the bank calls you to tell you that the check is counterfeit and they now want you to pay them back.  You cannot just wait for the check to “clear” or be “verified” because even if the bank told you it was “clear” it can come back as counterfeit a week later . . . I know . . . that is what our former back told us!

For more information on Lottery Scams check out our website or talk with others on our message board.

Vocabulary Lesson – Clear

Quite a while back, I wrote a “vocabulary lesson” about cashier’s checks.

I wanted to continue on this to show why I believe the wording used by the banking industry is so misleading and why it is so easy for so many people to become victims of counterfeit cashier’s check scams.

So let’s say you receive a cashier’s check from someone and you are concerned if it is a valid check or not. You want to receive the payment you are entitled to, and you do not want to end up liable for money from a bad check. This is the case with many people who become victims of counterfeit cashier’s check scams. Many of them do not know how to make sure that a check is legitimate, so they bring it to their bank. They trust that the people who work with forms of currency every day will know how to make sure that this check is legitimate.

If the bank teller tells you that “the check will be clear in 24 hours” what does that really mean, and why is that confusing to the banking customer? Let’s take a look at the definition of the word clear.

free from blemishes; unhampered by restriction or limitation; unencumbered by debts or charges; free from obstruction

“clear.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
Merriam-Webster Online. 25 October 2009
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clear

Banking: collection of funds on which a check is drawn, and payment of those funds to the holder of the check

“clear” Business Dictionaries from AllBusiness.com. 2009.
http://www.allbusiness.com/glossaries/clear/4949892-1.html

From reading these definitions one would think that when the bank tells you that an item, such as a cashier’s check, is “clear” that would mean that you are free to use that money with no worry . . . it should be unhampered by restrictions and funds should have been collected from the bank on which the check was drawn according to the definitions I found online from reliable sources. So then why is it that banking employees will tell their customers that the check is “clear” in 24 hours, but then contact them a week later to say that the check was found to be counterfeit? You cannot un-ring a bell. If it is clear one day, it should still be clear a week later.

Maybe the real problem is not the word “clear” but the fact that it takes on average 7 – 10 business days for a check to go through the entire clearing process, but many bank’s train their employees to tell people that cashier’s checks are “clear” in 24 hours. If it is a legitimate cashier’s check, then there would be no problems since it would be drawn against funds of the bank itself, but these checks are counterfeit and they are very good counterfeits, so good that they fool bank employees and bank managers on a daily basis.

So to make the vocabulary fit the situation, wouldn’t it be better for bank employees to inform their customers that “it could take over 10 days for the check to clear”. I know that the bank that we are currently with does this because I asked them before I opened an account with them. Test your bank out. Go in and ask them if you brought in a cashier’s check how long would it take for it to clear. If they tell you 24 hours, you might want to rethink who you are trusting with your money.

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

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at
http://shopittous.blogspot.com/