Every day, the Better Business Bureau responds to inquiries from consumers who receive fake checks in the mail, claiming they have won a lottery, offering mystery shopping opportunities, or stating that unclaimed funds are available. The BBB often hears the hope and skepticism in the voices of our callers—and the disappointment when we verify that it is, indeed, a scam.
But because we are professionals, we check out each and every check. We ask questions and verify.
We recently had the rare opportunity to look into a $6,000 check brought to us by a Bartonville man who was extremely leery of his good fortune. He walked into our office, proudly sporting a Caterpillar hat and a Bears sweatshirt. “Hey, I googled this, but I thought you guys would know for sure,” he said in a friendly voice. (We love that he googles…but also that he knows BBB is more reliable than Google.)
There was no letter with the check or any indication what the payment was for. The information for our Bartonville payee listed Florida instead of Illinois as his address, and there were other red flags. There was no return address on the envelope, and the state from which the check was mailed (in Maryland) was different from what was listed on the check (California). Immediately, our staff began digging for information.
First, we verified that there was indeed a company with that name in California and found the company registered with other DBAs (“Doing Business As”). Not unusual for a typical fake check scam.
Secondly, we checked with the bank listed on the check, verified the routing information, and confirmed that funds were available to cover the amount of the check. This is unusual.
Typically, a consumer who receives a check for a large amount of money is told to cash the check and send a portion of the money back via Western Union, green card or Visa gift card to obtain the remainder of their winnings. In most fake check scams, no funds are available to cover the amount of the check, the routing and account information will not coincide, or it will not match the location of the company that allegedly wrote the check.
In this case, everything checked out. With eyebrows raised, we kept digging.
Meanwhile, our new friend was ready to leave his number and head home with hopes for an answer from us later that day. Just before he left, we mentioned that one of the DBAs for the marketing firm indicated it was a timeshare exit company. Even more perplexed, our consumer wondered how the two names could be related. Then he remembered that about a month ago, he had signed a quit claim deed on a timeshare he and his wife had in Florida. We promised to keep digging for information, and he decided to go home.
Determined to get the last piece of this weird puzzle, we kept searching. We went to our files to search names, addresses and phone numbers, and learned the company was accredited with the BBB in California. So we gave them a call. Turns out, they truly did send him a check for that property. Elated for our new friend, we ran outside to deliver the news, just as he was getting into his car. Nearly $6,000 to him and his wife, for real! Needless to say, he was more than happy with the services of the BBB today.
Finally, a real, true, happily-ever-after story at the BBB. iBi