For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: July 30, 2007

Wasden Issues Warning to Idahoans Regarding Counterfeit Check Schemes

(Boise) – Consumers and businesses should be skeptical of checks received from sources they do not recognize, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden warned today.

“Idaho consumers and businesses are falling victim as counterfeit check schemes proliferate,” Attorney General Wasden said.

Counterfeit check schemes take a variety forms. The two most common are:

  • Overpayments for goods sold in classified advertisements.
  • Checks sent by mail for lottery or sweepstakes winnings, often represented as a prize from a foreign lottery.

In the overpayment scheme, Idaho sellers are contacted by prospective “buyers” in response to classified ads placed online or in local newspapers. The “buyer” sends a check for significantly more than the advertised price and asks the recipient to refund the excess, usually electronically or by Western Union. If the seller complies before the counterfeit is detected, the seller loses both the amount of the “refund” he or she paid from their own bank funds and the amount of the deposited phony check.

The prize scheme involves checks sent by mail, purportedly for lottery or sweepstakes winnings. Increasingly, the checks appear to be issued by legitimate American companies. However, they are counterfeit checks, illegally forged or duplicated from real checks.

Attorney General Wasden urges Idahoans to take these steps to protect themselves:

  • If you are a seller, never accept payment for more than the selling price.
  • Never wire money to someone you do not know, and, more importantly, never wire money to someone outside the United States. Money wired out of the country or to criminals is rarely recovered.
  • Never send a sold item to the buyer before the payment has cleared. Resist any pressure to do so.
  • If you accept payment by check, call the issuing bank to verify its validity. Locate the contact information online or in the phone book. Do not use the phone number published on the check. It may be a fake.
  • If possible, use a third party payment service such as an escrow service or PayPal. Be sure to thoroughly investigate any escrow service provider you use.
  • Businesses should consider using “positive pay” services typically offered by their own bank. This service provides a check matching system whereby the business can match checks presented to their bank for payment against those the business issued and decline payment if there is a discrepancy.
  • Do not participate in foreign lotteries. If you adhere to this policy, you will know that any prize notification or check you receive is phony. If you receive one, throw it away. Participation in foreign lotteries is illegal in Idaho.
  • Never send money in response to a sweepstakes or other notification that you have won a prize or free gift. Requiring payment to enter a sweepstakes, game of chance or to obtain a “free” prize is illegal.

“Distributing counterfeit checks is a crime,” Attorney General Wasden said. “If you receive a counterfeit check, it should be reported to your local police department.”

Idahoans should also report these crimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). The Internet Crime Complaint Center is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. The Internet Crime Complaint Center provides a vehicle for the reporting, referral, and development of evidence on an international level.

Consumers may obtain additional information on counterfeit check schemes via the Attorney General’s website at: www.ag.idaho.gov Consumers may also contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling (208) 334-2424 or writing to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0010. Idaho residents outside the Boise calling area may call the toll free number, (800) 432-3545.

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