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.

 

Scams and Trying to Educate People

I had a former co-worker email me the other day and she told me she was reading her Homemade Simple Magazine, and saw my name in it.
While I was VERY happy to see this article about scams, since this helps to educate people to what is going on, I was disappointed to see that some of the facts were not accurate.  Here is a portion of the article that is speaking about how to verify the status of a cashier’s check . . .
To find out a check’s status, call your bank twice (talk to two different workers in case one doesn’t understand the process) to verify that the check has been fully processed. Otherwise you lose the money if the check is a fake.
This would not be accurate.  In the case of our story, I spoke with two different bank employees BEFORE I withdrew the money from the account, and both of them told me that the check was “good”, “clear”, “verified”, “funds were available” and that I “had nothing to worry about”.  Once we found out the check was counterfeit and were dealing with the bank’s loss prevention department we asked them the same question, and we had two different people from THAT department tell us that “a cashier’s check is verified as good within 24 hours”.  These people in the loss prevention department knew what had happened to us, yet they were still giving us the same inaccurate information.
The ONLY real way to find out if the check is counterfeit or not is to call the bank that is listed on the check as the issuing bank.  Also, you cannot trust the phone number listed on the check.  The scammers have gotten smart and have started altering those also so that they go to one of the people within their group who will tell you that the check is good.  You need to do a Google search to find the official website of the issuing bank, or the Yellow Pages listing for that bank, and then call that phone number.
The advice from this article in regards to counterfeit cashier’s checks would not save anyone from becoming a victim of these types of scams.  It is sad, because the point of the article was to show real world situations that the everyday person could become involved in, and how they can be aware and protect themselves from these scams.
It looks like we still have a LOT of education to do, especially to the people that are trying to help educate the average American.

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

Scam Victims Arrested – adding insult to injury

Being arrested can be one of the most frightening experiences for a person, but when you add that to being the victim of a scam, you can defiantly feel like you are on an emotional roller-coaster.

Most people know the saying “Innocent until proven guilty” but the scam victims that I have spoken with that have been arrested would say that they were seen as guilty until they could prove they were innocent. Why is this? Over the years some businesses and banking institutions have gotten better at detecting a counterfeit cashier’s check or money order, but instead of warning the customer that the item is a counterfeit and that they are involved in a scam, they instead call the police into the matter and press criminal charges against the customer. These businesses and financial institutions will charge that the customer was aware that the document was counterfeit and that they were trying to defraud them . . . basically, that they were in on the scam. Most times the customer is truly an innocent person who really believed that the cashier’s check sent to them was good, or was only going to the bank to ask them to verify it and then before they know it then end up in handcuffs in a police department.

If you find yourself in this situation you need to read the document “The At Risk of Arrest and Arrested Fraud Victim Manual” This document will cover you and your relationship with law enforcement, your attorney, how to write a narrative of what happened to you, as well as defining some of the legal terms that you will hear so that you know better what to expect.


One of the really important things that this document says is that if you are a fraud/scam victim and you feel you are at risk of being arrested, keep a copy of this manual with you at all times. If something happens, you can refer to this document so that you don’t panic and say or do something that will make your situation worse. NEVER wave you Miranda Rights.


While we were never arrested in our case, I do understand the feeling of panic of becoming a scam victim. My first thoughts were “Who do I call? Where do I report this?” That is exactly why we have the Resources page on our site. When you feel like your world has been turned upside-down and you don’t know what to do, write up one letter that includes all of the information on what happened . . . names, dates, who said what and when . . . and then send that one letter to all of the agencies listed at our Resource Page.  We also have information on banking terms on this page along with other helpful tips like

  • Close any other accounts that you have at that bank so they cannot freeze those accounts
  • Turn off any direct deposits you have going into that account
  • Turn off any automatic payments or withdrawals you have coming out of that account
  • Open an account at another bank

Also, for support from others who have been in your shoes, you can talk to other scam victims at our message board.  Many people find this to be like an online therapy session.

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.