Sophisticated check scams: How one woman was able to protect herself and how you can too


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- "My very first thought was, 'Okay, this is a scam. This is obviously a scam.'"

ABC 13 producer Grace Barrett was recently targeted by a very sophisticated scam.

She said she came home one day and found a large priority mail envelope containing a check for almost $3,000.

The elements of the check are what almost fooled Barrett.

"There are perforated edges like when a check is ripped out, there's a water mark, there's a place to sign on the back, everything's spelled correctly," she said.

The bank listed on the check was legitimate, as well as the insurance company that supposedly sent it.

Julie Wheeler of the Better Business Bureau said when a scammer sends an unsolicited check, they are going to expect it to be deposited.

"They'll contact you to wire funds to them based on the fact that they sent you this check," Wheeler said.

She added that since it typically takes a few days for the check to bounce back, scammers have a short window of opportunity.

However, Wheeler shared that there are ways to protect yourself from these kinds of scams.

"Whatever you do, do not send money back in any way shape or form, whether it's wiring, whether it's getting money back, whether it's getting iTunes, Amazon gift cards, whatever to make payment, don't do that because you are gonna lose the money."

Barrett said thanks to her job experience, she has learned how to avoid becoming a victim.

But she is worried that others may not be as lucky.

"I can only imagine what people who aren't as familiar with scams would feel if they got something like this...I mean, I think it's easy to fall for," said Barrett.

Wheeler said most of these scammers will probably never get caught because they are out of the country and there aren't a lot of enforcement capabilities.

If you receive a fraudulent cashier's check in the mail, do not try to cash it, notify your bank immediately, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

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