Educating consumers about the dangers of fake checks is the goal of a joint credit union-bank effort now under way in New York.
The genuine-looking checks often are offered unsolicited as prizes for sweepstakes or payment for mystery shopper jobs and are accompanied by requests for the recipient to send their own money in for taxes or other fees.
The new program calls for participating institutions to hand out "Don’t Become a Target" brochures to anyone depositing checks or money orders of $1,000 or more or withdrawing $1,000 or more at a branch.
"The key is to prevent consumers from being victimized by educating them about fake check scams at the very point where they may be at risk," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the brochure’s creator, the Consumer Federation of America.
Joining the CFA in the effort are the Credit Union Association of New York, the New York Bankers Association, the Independent Bankers Association of New York and the New York State Consumer Protection Board. Two banks have signed up so far.
The average loss in such scams is $3,000 to $4,000.
"It’s impossible to detect these counterfeit checks just by looking at them," said Mindy A. Bockstein, the CPB’s chairperson and executive director. "The message that we want to give consumers is that there is no legitimate reason why anyone who wants to give them money would ask them to send money anywhere in return. If that’s the deal, it’s a scam."
William J. Mellin, president/CEO of the CUANY, said, "Fake check scams are a serious problem for consumers. Credit unions want to do all they can to educate their members. That’s why we’re excited to be a partner in this consumer education program."