Man searching for work falls victim to check scam BBB calls 'exploding epidemic'

FBI, FTC reported nearly 30,000 check fraud complaints last year

ORLANDO, Fla. – Unemployed and looking for work, Aaron Webb was ripped off when he least needed it.

Webb thought it would be an easy job to get him through a tough time, but it turned into a scheme that cost him thousands.

When looking for work, Webb, 30, did like so many others: He started his search online.

"I was trying to set myself up with jobs, and was going through various sites to do so," he said.

He checked Indeed, Monster, and even the jobs section of Craigslist.

"I've had good success on there," Webb said.  "Maybe I can find a cool little gig like the rest of my past jobs.'"

Soon after applying to a listing for "Warehouse workers wanted," Webb got an email from someone who identified themselves as the "hiring manager" and who offered him a job as a personal assistant.

The company claimed to work with foster homes and Webb would be delivering supplies, buying those supplies with a check the scammers sent him for more than $3,800.

"I'll need you to deposit this and I'll give you specific instructions on what to buy and where to send it," the email read.

Webb was advised to make a series of money transfers, some close to $1,000 each. However, soon his bank alerted him the check he got was fake and the cash he sent was his own.

Better Business Bureau investigator Steve baker said Webb was likely one of a half a million victims in the United States that are targeted by the scam every year.

The Federal Trade Commission and the FBI received nearly 30,000 complaints about check fraud last year, according to the report. Combined, they reported total losses of nearly $40 million. 

People in their 20s accounted for 21 percent of FTC complaints in the last two years.
"Bad guys depend on their victims being vulnerable ... out of a job, in need of money," said Holly Salmons with the Central Florida Better Business Bureau.

No type of check seems to be exempt from being forged. Experts with the Better Business Bureau warn that regular checks, cashier's checks and money orders can all be forged.

They found fake checks in numerous categories including employment frauds and sweepstakes frauds, and smaller numbers in areas such as bogus grants, online purchase frauds and rental frauds.

All of the schemes involve someone sending the victim a check.

"It can be a week to two weeks before the bank actually realizes that it's a counterfeit check," Salmons said.

The postal inspection service said it seized $62 billion in fake checks in 2017 alone, a lesson Webb learned the hard way.

"Be cautious what you click on," he said.

Experts say anyone who receives a check from a relatively unknown source should know that just because the bank credits it to your account, that doesn't mean the check has cleared. As a courtesy, banks will normally give you access to a portion of the funds, but remember, if the check bounces, the bank will want that money back.

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