The crooks creating the latest fake checks often call or e-mail victims to tell them they have won a sweepstakes or inherited money. The crook invents an excuse to explain why the check is written for an amount larger than the total owed to the recipient. To get faster access to the funds, the crook advises the recipient to accept the too-large check and wire back the "excess" amount.
Because the check appears real, some financial institutions let the recipient withdraw funds immediately. The recipient then wires the "excess" funds to the crook. When the scam is discovered, the financial institution typically withdraws the amount of the check from the victim's account. Meanwhile, the victim loses the amount sent by wire transfer, often thousands of dollars.
Three key questions will protect you from many scams.
1. Why would anyone send you more money than you're due? Just asking the question is a reminder that you rarely get something for nothing.
2. Why do you need that information? When anyone asks for personal information--check routing numbers, driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, or other data--ask why it's required. Unless you're convinced by the answer, refuse to provide it. Never provide information when someone else originates the transaction or request for information.
3. Is this check genuine? Even cashier's checks can be faked. Ask a professional at Pioneer Federal Credit Union to examine any questionable check before selling property or withdrawing funds.