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Counterfeit Checks Tied to Online Job Scam

Counterfeit Checks Tied to Online Job Scam

November 6, 2015

Banks nationwide are being warned to watch for counterfeit cashier’s checks that resemble authentic ones from an Ohio bank. The checks are tied to an online employment scam.

The First Federal Bank of Ohio in Galion reported that counterfeit cashier’s checks are being presented for payment nationwide as part of the scam. The checks are made payable in amounts of $1,680.65 to $2,880.45. The potential victim is asked to transfer by wire a portion of the money to a third party, according to the federal government’s Comptroller of the Currency.

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The counterfeit checks resemble the bank’s real checks, according to the government.

The bank did not return messages seeking comment.

Consumer groups say the scam is a common one that often costs job-seekers money and can expose their personal information to crooks.

“The check looks very legitimate,” said Joan Coughlin, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio. “It just preys upon the most vulnerable, and that’s the sad thing about it.”

There are variations of the scam, but it typically works when the supposed employer sends what turns out to be a bogus check to the newly hired employee to cover hiring or other costs. The employer then asks the new employee to return a portion of the money by wiring it or using a prepaid card.

The scam is often associated with online job boards that advertise work-from-home jobs or high-paying jobs that require no experience or specialized training.

“They might ask to send a check as an incentive payment or to pay for a background check,” Coughlin said. “There could be an overpayment situation, and they ask them to wire a portion of the money back. These checks are always fake. They’ll bounce.”

The fake checks are expensive for the new employee, who is out the money for the check, any money that might have been sent back and fees tied to the bounced check. Plus, they have exposed their personal information, which could result in identity theft.

Kate Hanson, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said mystery-shopper scams work in a similar fashion.

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“For example, consumers who think they’re involved in a mystery-shopper job may be told to ‘ evaluate’ the wire-transfer service at a local store by wiring several hundred dollars to someone who is out of state or even out of the country,” she said. “After sending the money, the consumer later finds out that the check the ‘employer’ sent was no good.”

The Ohio attorney general’s office has received 74 complaints this year about work-from-home or secret-shopper scams. That compares with 57 in all of 2014 and 108 in 2013.

The number of complaints is thought to represent just a fraction of the number of times the scams have been pulled.

Coughlin and Hanson advise consumers to do some homework on the potential employer before going forward to make sure that any work the company is offering is legitimate.

“The main red flag is if you get a check before you start a job,” Coughlin said. “Be skeptical if they ask you to deposit the check and send some money back.”

Consumers are advised to file a complaint should they receive a counterfeit or fictitious check.

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