Beware of Online Check Scam

A local teenager says she was trying to sell a TV on Craigslist when something odd happened---a man sent her a check for almost three times the amount and asked her to return the change.
By Michaela MacDonald

LUBBOCK, TX -- Local teenager Allison Alexander was trying to sell a TV on Craigslist for $500. She found an interested buyer who sent her a check for $1450 and asked her to return the rest.

"I received the check and then we realized, my mom told me that it was a fake check," said Alexander. 

She was skeptical.

"Because it was like twice as much as I was asking for and then he was telling me tospend $50 for the troubles that I've had and there's the money for the TV and here's $800 to just go and deposit it," said Alexander.

Alexander didn't fall for it, but FirstBank & Trust's check expert and Customer Service Manager Hana Roberston says many people do.

"What will happen is they will give you the check, the bank may cash it for you then 7 days later the check will be returned and charged to your account then you will actually be out the funds and in most cases there is no way to track these people down to recoup your losses," said Robertson.

The problems were easy for Roberston to find, but she says if you aren't sure ask customer service at the bank.

"We are trained to look at lots of things that are indications that it could be fraud so we will help anytime," said Robertson.

Alexander says she's learned a lesson, and wants others to be on the lookout.

"If you are going to sell, I would say do cash only, make sure its local, don't email definite don't give out your address because that is something I probably shouldn't have done, but kind of cut it off as soon as it starts looking like its sketchy," said Alexander.

Here are Robertson's expert tips:
Below are several signs which may indicate a bad check. While one sign on its own does not guarantee a check to be counterfeit, the greater the number of signs, the greater the possibility that the check is bad.
Ø check lacks perforations
Ø check number is either missing or does not change, or is low (like 101 up to 400 on personal checks; or like 1001 up to 1500 on business checks)
Ø Various fonts printed on different areas of checks
Ø Additions to the check (i.e. phone numbers) have been written by hand
Ø Customer's and/or the bank’s address is missing
Ø Stains or discolorations on the check possibly caused by erasures or alterations.
Ø MICR line is shiny
Ø MICR encoding at the bottom of the check does not match the check number.
Ø MICR numbers are missing.
Ø MICR coding does not match the bank district and the routing symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the check
Ø Name of the payee appears to have been printed by a typewriter. Most payroll, expenses, and dividend checks are printed via computer
Ø Notations appear in the memo section listing "load," "payroll," or "dividends“ and/or the notations in the memo line do not make sense
Ø check lacks an authorized signature
Ø Handwriting on the check looks exaggerated and/or does not fit the name of the account holder

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