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Monday, November 19, 2007


There are so many ways to steal your identity that it is near impossible to remember the accumulation of possibilities, or just what the next invention of this kind of fraud might be. In late 2006, the counterfeit check con from overseas began to take its place as the latest ploy in stealing your identity, according to a release by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in January of 2007. It started with foreign lottery winnings that you could claim by depositing the cashier’s check you receive through the mail, and then wiring money to the sender to pay the taxes and fees. Of course, the cashier’s check is no good, and you are out the amount you wired. I don’t know who was receiving this early version of the scam, but our household has never had the honor of being contacted. My gut feeling is that the crooks used what is known in the junk mail industry as “gullibles” lists. That is not necessarily a derogatory term, but rather a means to identify people that reply to advertising that literally promises something for very little or nothing. Sorry, those of you who bite, but in most cases it is obvious you are being taken. Like all identity theft hoaxes, this one has proceeded through its evolution to a new stage that is reported by MSNBC. The latest approach in the counterfeit check deception is using name brands like Publishers Clearing House and Readers Digest to front for a crooked sweepstakes, along with retaining the demand for the prey’s check to cover shipping and taxes. On another note, a Richmond, Virginia business woman who had an apartment to rent in Chicago, fell for the subterfuge of taking a United Kingdom man’s “relocation package” check, depositing it in her account, and then wiring the man back the difference between the $25,000 and the amount he owed her, which was around $4,000. When the bank found out the check was no good, they reversed the deposit and this “business woman” was out $4,000. It just so happens that the average victim of counterfeit check losses is about $4,000, which is $2,200 less that the typical identity theft victim in 2006. No wonder it works, some bank tellers cannot even tell that the checks are phony. The U.S. Postal Service is cracking down by seizing more than a half-million counterfeit checks worth $2.1 billion between January and August of 2007. They came from such far-reaching places as Nigeria, the Netherlands, England and Canada. What worries me most is that this is one method of swindling the consumer that I haven’t yet figured out a way to cover in my mission to grant consumers control over their names and personal data. But I am working on that problem as I speak.

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