Real Stories - Fake Check Scams
Tyler, who works as a swimming coach at a small college, received an email from a man asking if he could coach the man’s high-school-aged son during the summer, since his son would be in the area visiting his aunt. While this was not an unusual request, Tyler frequently offered private coaching to various clients, the man’s desire to pay Tyler far more than his usual fee stood out. The man offered to pay by check and asked Tyler to wire transfer a portion of the funds to his travel agent to cover the cost of an airplane ticket his son would need later that summer.
Tyler received the check, but was initially suspicious because the request seemed odd. However, the man explained that this arrangement made things easier for him. Tyler’s girlfriend and other friends convinced him that since he had the check in hand, he had nothing to lose. These factors, as well as Tyler’s sympathy for the son’s need for a coach, contributed to Tyler’s decision to deposit the check and follow through with the assignment.
Like Karl, Tyler believed the check must be valid when the bank credited the money to his account. Because the man emphasized that his travel agent needed the funds immediately, Tyler attempted to wire the funds right away. Fortunately for Tyler, an employee at the wire transfer business flagged the transaction as suspected fraud. An investigation revealed the address of the "travel agent" was linked to to previous fraudulent activity.
Tyler, despite his suspicions and his attempt to validate his thinking by consulting his friends, came close to losing money. The opportunity to make additional money and his desire to support someone in need of help may have contributed to his willingness to engage with the scammer. He was fortunate that the fraud detection protocols of the wire transfer business identified the scam before he lost money. Encouraging findings from the survey portion of this study show that someone intervenes in about 20% of scam attempts. Study participants recounted receiving help from bank tellers, employees of wire transfer services and other financial services companies. For Tyler, and others like him, this can be a vital last-minute line of defense against loss.