CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - A new scam targeting Charlotte residents involves fake checks and the promise of free money. FOX 46 is exposing how the scheme likely works and confronting the man behind the operation.
Gilbert Woodly says money is tight. The warehouse worker and father says he injured his back in November and hasn't been able to work since then.
"It's real tight," he said. "I'm looking for work as we speak."
This week he received an envelope, delivered overnight by UPS, with a check for $3,998. Woodly thought it was related to his disability.
When he went to deposit the check, bank tellers told him it was fake.
"She asked me did I get it UPS overnight and I said yes," said Woodly. "She said that's the common thing going on now and it's a bad check."
The envelope came with instructions to text a New Jersey based number. In a text message, Woodly was told to deposit the phony check "through any nearest ATM machine using your credit/debit card."
The scheme likely involves trying to get the victim to give over their bank account information or some variation of the "overpayment scam." That is when scammers send fake checks and then say they accidentally sent too much and ask for a portion of the money to be wired back. The Federal Trade Commission warns about fake check scams and recently released a video warning about the scheme.
"They ask you to wire the difference," the video says. "They gave you a reason that seemed to make sense so you did it. But by the time the bank knew the check was a fake the scammer already had your money."
After texting with the number on the note, FOX 46 asked Woodly to try calling. A man answered.
"So what do you need from me?," Woodly asked.
FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant asked to talk to the man to get answers.
"Why are you trying to rip people off?," asked Grant.
The man on the other end said the check was real but would not say why it was sent. He then hung up. Minutes later he called back.
"Why are you trying tos cam people?" asked Grant. "How many people are you doing this to?"
The man on the other end hung up again.
"It's like I'm fighting an invisible bully," said Woodly.
We turned over the man's phone number and photos of the envelope and note to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police. A spokesman says this sounds like fraud.
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," said Jeffrey Page with CMPD. "We encourage anyone who witnesses or is a victim of a crime to report it to us, and the same would be for this case."
Woodly says he will file a police report. In the meantime, he wants to warn others to watch out.
"Be on alert for stuff like that," he said. "Scams are real. If you get a phone call and don't know who it is, hang up immediately."
Protecting Your Wallet
There are many variations of the fake check scam. The FTC says it receives "tens of thousands" of reports ever year about fake checks, with the number of complaints rising. The FTC warns:
- Don't deposit a check, wire money or send money back in any way to people you don't know.
- If a check you deposit bounces - even after it seemed to clear - you are responsible for repaying the bank.
- Money orders and cashier's checks can also be counterfeited.
- If someone sent you a check and asked you to send some money back it's a scam.
- Banks have to make deposited funds available quickly by law. But the bank may not learn for days that the check was bad. By then, the scammer will have your money. Just because a check has cleared does not mean it is good.
- Be wary. Talk to someone you trust and contact your bank before you act.
- Never take a check for more than your selling price if you are selling an item.
- If you are selling an item online, consider using an escrow or online payment service.
- Never send money back to someone who sent you a check.
- Report fake check scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint