The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released an alert over a recent rash of fake check scams. While the majority of these fake checks come from job-search scams, though there have been several reports of checks supposedly issued by FINRA itself. They advise anyone who receives a check supposedly issued by FINRA or NASD Regulations – a fictitious organization – and doesn’t have a current business relationship with the organization not to cash it, and to call them at (301) 590-6500 to speak with one of their staff members.
Targets of this scam are sent a check that appears to be authentic – to the point where a real company is listed on the check, and both the routing and account numbers are linked to legitimate accounts. Once you receive the check, the most common version of this scam has you deposit the check and immediately transfer a certain portion of the amount to a separate account. Within a few days, your bank will alert you to the fact that you deposited a counterfeit check and that you are liable for all money transferred or withdrawn.
In some cases, the check will be delivered to you via registered mail or some similar service that requires a signature. This method generally comes without instructions to transfer any money to a separate account. While FINRA is still unsure of the exact implications of depositing these checks, they believe that doing so could create complications and potentially create further issues with the scammers who sent the checks.
If you receive a check from an unknown person who asks you to transfer any amount of money to a separate account, make sure you do a full background check before taking further action. The three most common variants of this scam that FINRA has identified are”
- Mystery Shopping Scam: Scammers target people by posting ads in classified sections looking for mystery shoppers on sites like Craigslist. Victims who respond to these ads are led to believe that they have been hired to evaluate money transfer companies, are sent checks that they are supposed to deposit into their bank accounts, and then told to withdraw a majority of the money to wire to someone else. Once the bank discovers the counterfeit check, the remaining deposited money is removed from the victim’s account and they are liable for any money withdrawn – often thousands of dollars.
- Modeling Scam: Similar to the mystery shopper scam, victims are often selected after they respond to an online post, though some are targeted after posting their own modeling information online. No matter how the scammer finds their marks, the victim is “hired” and sent information about the next step in an email. They are then sent a check, told to transfer a majority of the funds to a different account, and held liable for the money once the bank discovers the fraud.
- Unexpected Check Scam: As mentioned before, potential victims are simply sent checks in the mail with no additional instructions. The scammer will likely use your information to phish for personal financial information through emails or phone calls, and could even learn your bank account number if they have access to the cashed check image.
It’s important to take extra care in order to protect yourself from these types of scams. Remember: no company will ever overpay you via check and request that you transfer any portion back to them; it’s never safe to cash an check that you aren’t sure about – either call the company that supposedly sent it to you, contact your bank, or call FINRA to alert them to potential fraud; if you notice typos, different names on the various documents sent to you and the original posting, or if you are pressured to act immediately, chances are you’re being targeted in a scam.
If you were the target of these scams, you may need to seek legal assistance to recover your lost funds. At Meyer Wilson, our securities fraud attorneys have represented nearly 1,000 different institutional and individual investors since we opened our doors, and continue to offer our services to clients across the country. Tell us more about your case by filling out our online form, or call us at (614) 705-0951 to speak with one of our securities fraud lawyers today.