Federal Trade Commission

12/02/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/02/2020 20:42

Hey college students: have you seen this scam?

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December 2, 2020
Ari Lazarus
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Scammers are targeting college students. In the last year, we told you about a car wrap scam and a COVID-19 scam hitting college students. Today, we want to tell you about a fake check scam.

In this one, a scammer posing as a professor sends you an email. It uses a college domain name and a format like [email protected]. The scammer offers you a part-time job, like personal assistant or dog walker. Then, the scammer sends you a check, asks you to deposit it, send some of the money to someone else, and keep the rest as payment. A while later, the bank realizes the check was fake and deducts the original check amount from your account. So, if you deposited a $1,000 check, they'll take that back. But if you sent $400 to someone else, you're now out $400 of your own money.

People report losing a lot of money to fake check scams. The median loss in 2019 was $1,988. That's a lot of money for anyone to lose. But an FTC analysis published earlier this year showed that people in their twenties are more than twice as likely as people over 30 to report losing money to fake check scams.

So how do you avoid a fake check scam? Never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, or wire money to someone. It's always a scam. And, once you send the money or put it on a gift card and give someone the gift card PIN, it's like giving them cash. It's almost impossible to get your money back.

Banks have to give you money from deposited checks within a few days. But if the check turns out to be a fake, they'll make sure they get that money back from your account. The bottom line is, if someone sends you a check and tells you to send money by wire transfer or gift card - it's a scam.

Spotted a scam like this? We want to hear about it. Let us know at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Blog Topics:
Money & Credit
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mrsmike6| December 2, 2020
  • reply

Several years ago while living in Florida I received a check for over $19,000.00 for the part time job of secret shopper it said! I never applied for any job as a secret shopper let alone any job at all. ( retired)..it was drawn on Wells Fargo Bank. Just for fun I took it to a Wells Fargo Bank. The gentlemen almost shirked, you didn't try to cash this did you? Oh heavens NO... not a real check. And police didn't want to even know about it if I didn't loose money! Scams will never end...

Evergreen3| December 2, 2020
  • reply

It's not only old people being taken by the scammers. Everyone needs to be alert for fraud.

college_student| December 2, 2020
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This just happened to me... like last night I found out and it's been absolutely devastating. I've been having financial trouble this whole year because of the pandemic and was excited to make some extra cash being a dog walking. I'm so upset I wasn't smart enough to realize I was being scammed, and now I'm out $2220. Honestly heartbroken right now

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