WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is warning college students about a fake check hoax that has scammers pretending to be college professors.
The FTC said Dec. 2 that the scammer sends an email with a college domain name and format like "email@example.com." The scammer offers the victim a part-time job like being a personal assistant or a dog walker. Then, the scammer asks for the victim to deposit a check for them.
Sometimes the scammer will even ask the victim to send money to someone else for a variety of reasons, like to pay rent, but allows the victim to keep the rest.
The FTC found that these checks aren't real. When a person deposits the check, and the bank later realizes it's fake, it then deducts the check amount from the victim's account. However, if the victim sent money to someone else, the victim will have to pay for that amount of their own money.
Banks can give money from a deposited check within a few days, however, the FTC said it can take weeks to uncover a fake check. By that point, the scammer has already gotten away with the money.
The FTC encourages individuals to not rely on checks unless it's from someone reliable and trustworthy. The FTC also reminds that just because a check "clears" doesn't mean it's good.
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An analysis from the FTC found that people in their 20s are twice as likely to report losing money to fake check scams than people over 30. Other ways college students have been swindled this year include a car wrap scam and a slew of COVID-19-related scams.
How does someone avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam? The FTC said individuals should never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, or wire money to strangers or someone they just met.
Anyone who believes they are being scammed should contact the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorney general's office.