People send checks to me every day; sometimes they are for hundreds of dollars.
Other times, they’re written for more than $5,000. But I can't cash them and neither can the people who send them to me.
These checks end up in peoples mailboxes from senders they don't know, seemingly for no reason.
They're actually being sent from scammers.
How does it work? The scammers send these checks and ask that part of the money be sent back to them. Sometimes they ask the person perform some sort of "job" by wiring the money to somebody else.
By the time you find out the scammer's check is bad, you've already spent good money in their scheme.
And I'm not exaggerating when I say that I get questions about different checks EVERY DAY.
For years, I've told people that if they did nothing to earn the check, it's a scam.
But I don't think the message is getting through.
So, with the latest batch of checks, I did something different.
I called the banks listed on the check, and asked if there was any money available.
Each time, I'd hear the same thing, in different ways: "the funds are not available at this time" or "it won't clear" and even "it's a scam."
One time I did hear that the account was legitimate, but the banker couldn't tell me for sure that there was money there for this check. She seemed confused.
I understand why hope can sometimes trump reason. But I have seen these things end horribly for some consumers.
One man lost more than $9,000. Other people had their bank accounts closed because of depositing a fraud check.
So, again I say, if you get a check for no reason, or for a contest you never entered, rip it up.
If you just can't bring yourself to do that, at least call the bank. And be prepared -- you'll likely be talking to another "dream killer."
Need my help? Call the Assistance League of Phoenix volunteers at 1-855-323-1515. You can also send me an e-mail, a tweet, or like the Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there.
AND WE NEED YOUR HELP! If you want to be a volunteer and help consumers who call the Let Joe Know helpline, let us know. Just call the 855 number above. Leave your name, phone number, tell us that you want to volunteer, and we will get back to you. It's a great way to help others AND learn the latest scams and how to protect yourself!