Mental health counselors, family therapists, and other industry professionals have recently been targeted in a new variation of an old fake check scam. The scam usually begins with a foreign “client” requesting (usually by email) an appointment for counseling services during a planned visit to the U.S. and insists on paying for those services in advance. A “payment” is sent in the form of a check – either for the full amount or grossly in excess of the agreed-upon payment. After the check is deposited, the patient then cancels the appointment and requests a refund, or simply requests that the overpayment be returned. Of course, the check was fake and the counselor is out of whatever money they returned to this non-existent client.
Nannies and babysitters were previously targeted in a similar scheme. The care provider would be contacted through an online site with a request for their services from a family that was moving from outside of the country. The "payment" would be sent in the form of a check for over the agreed-upon amount. The "new client" would then request the care giver wire some of the money back to the sender. Again, the checks were fake and the care provider was out of whatever money they sent to the fraudulent family.
Industry professionals accepting new clients should be cautious when accepting payment for their services. Here are a few important tips to avoid being caught up in this fake check scam:
- Do not respond to an unsolicited email seeking counseling or other services, especially from someone claiming to reside in another state or foreign country;
- Do not deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then transfer the money back to them, especially if they request the refund be sent using a service like Western Union or MoneyGram;
- This is true even if the payment is made with a cashier’s check – fake cashier’s checks can appear to be very authentic, including the name of a legitimate United States bank and even containing the magnetic routing codes that appear along the bottom of the check;
- If you do deposit a check, wait to see if it clears your bank before you agree to send a refund;
- Do not respond to any messages that ask for your personal or financial information, regardless of whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text, or an ad.
Is it important to remember that, when you deposit a check in your account, you are warranting to your bank that the funds are good. The bank has no obligation to reimburse you for any money you lose when the check turns out to be fake.
If you believe you have been victimized by a scam or wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.