Personal Finance

This scam has jumped 65% since 2015 and costs consumers $28 million

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In a world where much of consumer banking has gone high-tech, the most costly scams involve an old-school tool: checks.

At about $2,000 a pop, fake-check scams cheated consumers out of more than $28 million in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That per-instance amount is more than six times the median loss on all frauds tracked by the agency.

“Fake checks are a tactic used with a range of story lines,” said Emma Fletcher, a program analyst with the FTC’s division of consumer response and operations. “But there are always two common elements — there’s always a check that you have to deposit and a plausible explanation for why you must part with some of it.”

Fake-check scams are up 65% since 2015, according to the FTC. And they are hitting younger adults the hardest: Last year, 20-somethings were more than twice as likely as people 30 and older to report losing money in fake-check scam.

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“Part of that is we’re seeing scammers specifically target college students,” Fletcher said. “They get an email that looks like it’s from a professor, or career services, and they think it’s been vetted.

“They might not have the skepticism they’d have otherwise.”

The scams basically involve you agreeing to deposit a check in your bank account and then, once the funds are available — usually within a…



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