With regular media attention detailing the latest elaborate schemes of identity thieves, most Americans are familiar with the threat and need to stay protected. Suspicious emails – just delete them. Choose strong passwords and change them regularly. These practices are becoming increasingly well known to stay safe from routine, run-of-the-mill schemes. However, because of this thieves are creating more elaborate plans that go beyond the scope of what is on your radar.
Ian Bower, who at the time of the incident was a teenager actively seeking employment, conducted a search with websites such as Indeed, when he realized he was getting a better response from the postings on Craigslist. Bower was hoping to find a solid entry-level position while he was enrolled in college. He cast a wide net and sent his resume to what he thought was just another advertisement through Craigslist. About a week later, he received an unsolicited check in the mail.
“How did I get all this money,” Bower questioned. “I called my mom and she told me not to cash the check. I also texted a friend who had cashed a check in a similar situation and spent the money. There was also an email notifying me to be on the lookout for a check that would pay for employment with tasks such as picking up mail. It was so much money for completing these trivial tasks,” he added.
Job applicants should be on the lookout for suspicious advertisements promising to pay substantial amounts of money for completing entry-level work. Often times, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. The problem with schemes like the one Bower experienced, is that it plays on your emotions and makes it more likely that you will become a victim, just as his friend did.
The check was a fraud and what happens is if you cash it, then spend the money – you become liable. The schemers will seek reimbursement for the money spent, and will do everything they can to extort the funds they request. You also become susceptible to any legal complications and consequences for cashing a counterfeit check.
Luckily, Bower was well educated with protecting his personal information and the risks of identity theft. Even with his knowledge, he did not fully understand what was going on right away.
“I was raised to be careful with my online activity – to watch out for scams, what to click and what to not click. Even though it was $2,000 out of the blue, when you get a physical check, it felt real. It didn’t occur to me that it was a counterfeit check, these schemes can get really elaborate,” said Bower.
In the event you encounter suspicious activity or become involved in a situation that feels too good to be true, the Federal Trade Commission provides consumers with an opportunity to submit an online complaint. It is best not to correspond with the actors involved in the scheme and to let the professionals handle the situation.
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By: Laura Mowry