The Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY (BBB) is warning people to be on-guard because of a big increase in the number of check scams - especially ones that appear to offer a chance to make money while working from home. You can read the BBB report here:
"As consumers write fewer checks, scammers are writing more," said BBB spokesperson Melanie McGovern.
Recent reports of the check scams have come in from the Elmwood Village in Buffalo and from the Southern Tier in the Village of Allegany.
The "Mystery Shopper" and "Car Wrap" scams are two that seem to be getting many victims.
With the "Mystery Shopper" scam, a victim will receive an authentic looking check or money order to provide the victim with money so they can shop at stores, like Walmart and Target, to purchase gift cards and provide feedback about the experience. The victim is required to provide information from the gift card purchases and the pre-paid card numbers to the scammers, who are posing as researchers.
However, unknown to the victim, the check will eventually be discovered to be fake by the bank - making the victim liable to repay the money. The scammers win because they get the pre-paid card numbers which can be used to make purchases.
This scam takes advantage of banking law that requires money from a deposited check be made available within a day or two. It can take up to a week for a bank to discover the check is counterfeit.
In the "Car Wrap" scam, a victim receives a check to compensate them for having advertisements put on their vehicle. The victim is told they can keep most of the money but some of it has to be used to pay a company to install the ad wraps. The problem is, the installation company doesn't exist and the victim ends up sending money to the scammer while the bad check eventually bounces.
Why it is confusing: Making things even more confusing, there are legitimate companies that will pay a person to be a "mystery shopper" or have your car wrapped with advertisements.
The BBB said another reason there seems to be an growing number of victims is the increased use of cell phone apps that allow checks to be deposited into banking accounts. Victim's will often not recognize a counterfeit check before using that app to deposit it from their phone.
Any suspicious check should be reported to your bank, the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us/reportscam, or the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc