Times are tough and people are always looking for ways to get a little more money. Unfortunately some are finding money by stealing it out of your pocket.
Scams work because they appeal to our hearts and not our heads. Sure in our heads we know that someone's not going to walk up and hand us a check for thousands of dollars. But in our hearts we want it to happen and that's where we get into trouble.
Take Stephanie McFarland for example.
The letter was real.
The check was real.
And so were her emotions when they arrived in her mailbox.
“I was hoping and it got me going,” McFarland said.
It got her thinking that a prize for $9,851.80 could actually be hers. All because she was a good customer at some very well known stores.
But there was a catch. She first had to cash the enclosed $985 cashier's check.
“I read the letter and I needed to cash the check, deposit in my account and mail them $900,” McFarland said.
But why would she do that?
“To cover the taxes,” she said.
Sheryl Bilbrey with the Better Business Bureau says these check scams claim victims every day.
“I don't know anyone out there that couldn't use a few extra dollars and so they get excited when they see some help,” Bilbrey said.
So how do they work?
It's all about you cashing the check and wiring the money back to the person who sent it to you.
The problem is, the check is a forgery.
“Basically they wanted me to cash the check, mail them $900, then by that time my check would bounce. I would be out the money and they'd have $900,” McFarland said.
“So if you take that money and you spend it somewhere else, send it back to the person who sent you the check, you're on the hook for that money,” Bilbrey said.
Fortunately McFarland did not cash the check.
But she was tempted.
“Oh easily. I fell for it the first 15 minutes,” she said.
Ironically, the name of the alleged company sending out these checks is called Trustnet.
But that's not important.
What you need to remember is stay away from all offers that want you to cash a check and then send money back for taxes.
It just doesn't work that way.