On Your Side Alert: Fake Checks

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many of you have called 12 about those fake checks that show up in your mailbox. Many times, the bogus funds are tied to foreign lotteries or phony work- at- home offers. We wanted to know why the fake checks are a constant problem and why you are responsible if you cash the checks.

Banking security officer, Sandy Smith, with Chesapeake Bank, knows how to spot a fake check. "It is very profitable for the criminals. You think of this as something maybe, Joe is doing in his home but this is organized crime," she says. It's a huge problem that Smith says will likely continue to evolve and she admits, there is not much that can be done to stop it. "All you need is a computer, a printer, a software program, maybe a scanner and you are ready to go," Smith explains.

She says while Tellers are trained to spot phony checks, some of the crooks are good and the bad checks slip through. The key, she say is prevention. You have to do your homework and understand the red flags. "They are dealing with someone they don't know, they are receiving a check in the mail from someone they don't know, they are being instructed to keep it confidential or quiet and the main thing is, they are being told to act quickly and then wire funds back out," Smith tells us.

One of the questions we hear often when you call or email, is why are you responsible for the fake check if you cash it. Banking experts say the answer is really simple, it's the law. "It's been adopted in all 50 states, so it doesn't matter where you bank the law applies. Within that law, is a transfer warranty that states if you endorse an item, you are responsible if it is dishonored for any reason," Smith explains.

Kristy Marshall, with Wells Fargo, advises customers to always ask questions. She says staying ahead of the criminals is a difficult job. If you are a victim, keep this in mind. "Your bank is going to want that money back and so we are going to go into your account to withdraw those funds back," Marshall says.

There are websites out there to help protect you, like Fakechecks.org and DeliveringTrust.com. An important thing to keep in mind, just because the money shows up in your account, doesn't mean the check was good. "I would say, as a given, at least five business days is a rule, you may be safe but it is not a guarantee," Smith says.

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