5 Ways to Prevent Check Fraud Scams

Check fraud is a billion dollar problem. Check fraud victims include banks, businesses and consumers. Our current system for cashing checks is somewhat flawed. Checks can be cashed and merchandise can be purchased even when there is no money in the checking account.

There are 5 main forms of check fraud to watch out for:

Forged signatures are the easiest form of check fraud. These are legitimate checks with a forged signature. This can occur when a checkbook is lost or stolen, or when a home or business is burglarized. An individual who is invited into your home or business can rip a single check from your checkbook and pay themselves as much as they like. Banks don’t often verify signatures until a problem arises that requires them to assign liability.

Forged endorsements generally occur when someone steals a check written to someone else, forges and endorsement and cashes or deposits it.

Counterfeit checks can be created by anyone with a desktop scanner and printer. They simply create a check and make it out to themselves.

Check kiting or check floating usually involves two bank accounts, where money is transferred back and forth, so that they appear to contain a balance which can then be withdrawn. A check is deposited in one account, then cash is withdrawn despite the lack of sufficient funds to cover the check.

Check washing involves altering a legitimate check, changing the name of the payee and often increasing the amount. This is the sneakiest form of check fraud. When checks or tax-related documents are stolen, either from the mail or by other means, the ink can be erased using common household chemicals such as nail polish remover. This allows the thieves to endorse checks to themselves.

Uni-ball pens contain specially formulated gel ink that is absorbed into the paper’s fibers and can never be washed out. The pen costs two bucks and is available at any office supply store.

Consider a locked mailbox so nobody can access your bank statements.

Using online banking and discontinuing paper statements.

Never toss old checks in the rubbish, always shred them.

Have checks delivered to the bank for pick up opposed to your home.

Guard your checks in your home or office, lock them up.

Go over your bank statements carefully.
Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures.

Scammer Tricks Woman with Bait and Switch

As far back as I can remember I would often be approached in parking lots by someone in a van who was trying to sell me home stereo speakers. The speakers were always from a retailer’s loading dock or from trucks that had extra unaccounted inventory. And today was my lucky day.  The ruse was when you got the speakers loaded into your trunk, you were generally getting them in their new box. But the box just had pieces of wood.  Anyone thinking they were getting a deal, was just getting firewood. This is classic bait and switch.  Be more aware of these scams and protect yourself from them.

A twist on this scam happening all over is with laptops. The Business and Heritage reports “As a woman got out of her vehicle, she was approached by a man who had exited from his car. In his car were a woman in the front seat and a kid in the back. He approached the woman and showed her a laptop.  He explained that his girlfriend is a manager at Best Buy and that he had gotten a great deal on some laptops like the one he had. But, now he needed the money more than he needed the laptops and said he would sell them to her for $350.00 each. He had four of them, each in an individual Fed Ex box in his car.  She accompanied him to his car, where he opened two boxes, and she saw what appeared to be two laptops. One was a black laptop with a Best Buy sales tag of $1999.99 and the other was a white Apple laptop with a $1999.99 price tag on it. Both were packaged nicely in plastic bubble wrap in Fed Ex boxes specifically made for shipping laptop computers.

The woman called some of her friends and they all wanted to buy one, so she bought all four of them for $1,000 in cash, on the spot. The scammer loaded them into the woman’s car and quickly left.  After the woman got back to her hotel, she discovered that the “computers” were actually several packages of notebook paper sandwiched between a black notebook binder and a white notebook binder.”

PT Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Even old scams with new twists make smart people stupid. It’s not difficult to get swindled out of your money in a scam like this. Everyone wants a deal and everyone likes to think they are too smart to get scammed. Always keep in mind what Mom said, “If it’s too good to be true, then it is.”

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing scammers and thieves on The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch. Disclosures

Woman Becomes Victim of Craigslist Scam

I have a love/hate relationship with Craigslist. I love the occasional deal I get (like the 25 hp outboard motor I just got) and I love how people use it to find stuff I’m selling or renting out (like an apartment). But I hate the way some people completely over price what they are selling, thinking that old boat motor is worth what a new one costs. Or worse, when scammers contact Craigslisters every time they post an ad trying to get them to ship something overseas and scam them out of their money.

Craigslist should be used with caution. People have been robbed, burglarized, scammed and in some cases their homes were invaded and some people have been killed.

I once listed a property for rent that was relisted for a 1/3rd of my asking price by scammers. People would pull into my driveway and knock on my door while the listing was active and after the listing I posted had expired too.

In Connecticut, a mother, father and son traveled a hundred miles to see a home for rent. The only trouble was, the homeowner wasn’t renting it out and she was still living in it. She was in fact trying to sell it. And when the real estate agent listed it for sale, she also syndicated the ad to multiple sites including Craigslist.

Just like my situation, she had to explain to the people who showed up they were scammed.

Here’s how the scam often works. The scammer copies and pastes the ad and poses as the homeowner who is conveniently away traveling on business in the UK. The scammer lists the ad for much less than is being asked to generate traffic. When people respond to the ad, the scammer tells them they can rent it out and all they have to do is forward him the first month’s rent via a money wire overseas. Some people will want to drive by to get a look without actually going in and that’s enough for them to send the money.

The way I thwarted this crime under my watch was to continually scan Craigslist for key words related to my ad to see if it was being posted by a scammer. When I discovered a fraudulent post, I emailed abuse@craigslist.com with the link. Craigslist was very responsive and took the posts down. I had to do this almost 20 times (the hate part) during the period I was renting out an apartment.

With Craigslist, be very careful who you contact and who contacts you. You never know who the person is or what their motivation may be.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Scummy Scammers and Targeted Attacks

I make a portion of my living speaking professionally. That means I get on a platform and present in front of an audience on issues revolving around personal security and identity theft.

So when I got this email, I was so happy to see I was being invited to England to speak to the esteemed Middlesex University in England.

I had to shorten the dialog to keep in tune with your attention span.



SCAMMER: From: Professor Wayne Erickson <middlesexuniversityconference@gmail.com>

To: Respected Robert Siciliano, (
I am ‘Respected”, NICE!)

Am Professor Wayne Erickson from the Middlesex University
Here in London UK. We want you to be our guest speaker at this
Year Middlesex University Seminar which will take place here in

We are taking care of your traveling and hotel accommodation expenses including your speaking fee. If you will be available for our event, include your speaking fees in your email so it can be included in your CONTRACT AGREEMENT.

Stay Blessed
Professor Wayne



ME: Wonderful. Fee is $10,000. What are the next steps?



SCAMMER: It is really nice hearing back from you; we are over delighted to have
you honor our invitation. I will have loved to give you a call
so as to deliberate more on arrangements, but am out of office on an
official duty and will not be back until WEDNESDAY morning, we can only
communicate through emails at the moment.

We have agreed to buy your flight ticket and to pay your hotel
accommodation expenses. Also your Speaking fee is amounted to
10,000 USD 7,000 (SEVEN THOUSAND USD) deposit is to be paid as
soon as you procure all relevant travel documents so as to avoid any
disappointment. You are informed to get across your Work Permit to us
so your deposit can be approved according to our mandated rules and

You are advised by the Event Organizing committee to immediately
contact our BRITISH EMBASSY here in the UK to procure your UK Work
Permit as soon as possible

This will enable us to proceed with all arrangements to welcome you
here in London. Contact the British Embassy official
information below.

BRITISH EMBASSY.  Name: Dr Owen Loren Email:britishembassycustomerservice@gmail.com



ME: Dr. Owen Loren, need work permits.



SCAMMER: I acknowledged the receipt of your mail. I understood all the
contents. Without any waste of time and due to short time we have left
to proceed with the issuance of these important documents .Fortunately
for you I will be processing some files today at the UK BORDER AGENCY.
You are advised to immediately provide me with the listed

View attachment below and immediately get back to me with all
requirements so I can proceed on the procurement of your PERMIT.

In your service,
Dr Owen Loren,
British Embassy Official.

In the attached document, the scammer requests for 550 pounds (837.277 USD)



SCAMMER: As soon as you get the PERMIT procured send me a copy of it so I can forward it to our FINANCIAL DEPARTMENT for your DEPOSIT to be sent
over to you, I will also begin with all reservations ASAP.

We also await the signed copy of your CONTRACT AGREEMENT.

Note: The UNIVERSITY has promised to reimburse all the expenses spent
on your PERMIT alongside your DEPOSIT.

We await meeting you in LONDON,

Stay Blessed,
Professor Wayne



ME: This is such a fantastic opportunity. Please send photos of yourselves of your highest dress attire in your most coiffed hair with the attached document printed out. I will post them on my website to promote my esteemed engagement. I will get on my motorbike shortly after I received these wonderful photographs of your handsomeness and go directly to western-union to pay the fabulous fee to work. I need these photographs ASAP. Please include a handheld printable version of my name (as attached) in your hands (both hands) with the photograph to show my American colleagues how lucky I am to work with such incredible official as yourself. I look forward to these photographs ASAP and will provide to my webmaster then I will go on my motorbike to pay the fee. I am ready and awaiting your quickest timeliest response.

Your Esteemed Colleague and Most Wonderful Speaker

Robert Siciliano

NEW Demo Video http://YouTube.com/watch?v=mrcvMg1UDro
Robert Siciliano


All they need is one person each month to respond to this scam and they make bank. $850.00 is enough money for them to feed themselves all month. This isn’t such a sophisticated scam. However, speakers I know have fallen for it. The documentation and the targeted attack make it an effective ruse. Lawyers are getting scammed in a similar way. What makes this “spear phish” (a targeted scam) so scary is they sought ME out, they know my profession and who I am. But, apparently they don’t really know what I do, which is exposing their scumminess to the world. I feel dirty just communicating with them.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures

Beware of Facebook Dangers

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Danger!! Hows that for a blog title that screams fear, uncertainty and doubt!? Fact is Facebook boast 400 million users and is in so many ways seems out of the control of its founder, and is looking dangerous. This is a company that has grown faster than fast and has a (very intelligent) 20 something CEO just out of puberty calling the shots. It seems the amount they (his Board? CIO? ) lets him run at the mouth that privacy is no big deal, shows an immature lack of control over this operation. Any company that wields this much power needs to be checked and balanced.

Their growing pains are publicly played out in numerous lawsuits and visceral rants by every possible pundit (like me) and privacy professional on the block.

Sure when you are that big there will always be someone who wants to take you down. But every week there is a new story about a security breach or a privacy violation. That tells me it’s more than growing pains or jealousy. There are serious management problems there resulting in reputation issues for the company and for the user, security issues.


The 3rd party applications in the form of games and quizzes are sharing data that’s not meant to be shared. While the user may agree to the terms of service, they aren’t reading the fine print. Is it really in Facebooks interest to allow this?

Seems like every 2 weeks they change whatever privacy settings there are and the public gets more pissed off with each change. Why doesn’t someone inside this company have a clue what the public wants? What’s more obvious is they don’t care!

Criminals and scammers set up fake profiles of companies and individuals all day every day. These social media identity theft profiles are designed to get people to provide data for free gift cards or other offers that ultimately allow for financial fraud to occur. Is there no way they can more effectively police this?

Recently, the chat feature was made public. For a period of time users chats were available for anyone to see. They had to shut it down to calm the mess. How the heck does that happen? Don’t they have redundancy built in to prevent this?

Ads appearing on Facebook are sanctioned in some way by Facebook and some are malicious. When clicked they can infect your PC. You would think that a private company worth billions would have systems in place to prevent its users from getting hacked via ads placed on their own servers?

So now that I’m done throwing up, protect your identity. Because when it gets hacked on Facebook, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Facebook Hackers on CNN.

Scammers Bait 40,000 Facebook Victims with Ikea Gift Card

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

It’s just a matter of setting up a fake Facebook page and marketing it to a few people who then send it to their friends and it goes somewhat viral. The Ikea scam hooked 40,000 unsuspecting victims with the promise of a $1,000 gift card.

PC World reports In the past months, fan pages have popped up all over the social networking site, offering too-good-to-be-true gift cards. There’s the $500 Whole Foods card, the $10 Walmart offer, and the $1,000 Ikea gift card. The Ikea page put these gift card scams on the map last month, when it quickly racked up more than 70,000 fans before being snuffed. Facebook has also taken down Target and iTunes gift card scam pages in the past few months.

To get the gift card the users must enter names, address and email address. They are then pointed to other pages where real products and services are offered. From there they enter credit card details if the offer appeals to them.

The root of this scam is believed to be perpetrated by affiliate marketers who make money on click throughs and create a ruse to gather data on potential customers also known as a “sucker list.”

In general, there shouldn’t be any traditional identity theft as it relates to new account fraud as long as requests aren’t being made for Social Security numbers, and the “victim” isn’t giving one out. Otherwise I don’t see this scam as harmful, but is certainly deceptive.

1. Get a credit freeze and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

2. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Facebook Hackers on CNN.

April Foolery and Springtime Home Scams

Spring is here! Thank heavens. I’ve had enough cold and rain to last 50 winters. In the Northeast millions of people are pumping out their basements due to record rainfalls. The Boston Globe reports police want you to know that so you don’t get hit twice from the recent rains: once when your property gets damaged, and again when a con artist comes calling at your door looking to rob you.

First, there is no such thing as the “Municipal Water Disaster Department.” But in drenched communities home scammers are posing as inspectors and gaining access to people’s homes.

In one incident a man knocked on an older couple’s door asking to see their basement to check utilities for safety purposes. Once inside he told them he needed to go upstairs to check on something and they should remain downstairs. The couple remained in the basement waiting for instruction but after about 15 minutes they realized something was wrong. They went upstairs to find the man was gone and $7,500 had been taken from a safe and hundreds more stolen from elsewhere in the home.

This time of the year people are also doing their spring cleaning and home scammers are trying to clean you out too. Apparently chimney sweep and chimney repair is something to look out for. Someone knocking on your door looking to sweep your chimney may do the job, but may also find all kinds of unnecessary repairs that they will try to sell you. Don’t get me wrong here, if someone tells you your chimney needs repair, act on it, but first get a second opinion on it. And do it fast because a broken chimney is a severe health hazard.

Look for driveway repair home scams, phony landscapers, window washing scams, trash removal or clean out home scams. All I’m saying’ is you need to have your head up and pay attention to what’s going on out there. Scammers are using every possible event, holiday, season or tragedy to catch you with your guard down.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home invasions and home security on the Montel Williams Show.

Beware of Door to Door Conmen

There are bazillion scammers using a bazillion ruses to get your money. The lowest of the low are the ones who scam the elderly. These same conmen often do it door to door and can be very dangerous.

Con men posing as city employees seem to be the most effective scam. In one incident 2 men posed as city workers who were trimming trees in a neighborhood. One man would knock on the door and schmooze the resident into allowing him into the home. He would then coax the person into the back area of the home while his partner would sneak in the front door.

Once the second man was in he’d rob the person. Often they’d head straight for the bedroom and grab jewelry boxes and look for wallets and pocketbooks.

In another scam a man would go door to door and offer his labor for gardening and yard work for elderly. He would do the job he was hired to do at an agreed fee. But when the job was over he would request a significant amount of money that wasn’t previously discussed. In this case he would escalate the situation to yelling and threats.

He was so bold he would drive the person to an ATM machine to get the money.

In both of these situations the home owners were lucky the situations didn’t escalate to physical violence. It’s unfortunate that elderly are preyed upon in this way. If you have an elderly parent or neighbor, keep a close eye on them and watch out for them. Unfortunately with some people you can tell them to be careful and not open the door to strangers until you are blue in the face and they may not listen.

If you have an elderly person you care for and they live away from you I’d recommend installing a video security system in their home. Today’s surveillance systems can be remotely monitored from any PC in the world. I’m able to monitor mine from my iPhone. You can set an alarm on individual cameras to alert you to activity.

Consider a home alarm system too. Make it real easy for them to activate and deactivate using a remote control. Have the alarm company call them first, the police second and you third when an alarm goes off.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing Home Invasions on Montel Williams.

Scammers Targeting Craigslist Users

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Craigslist scams are in full force. Fox news reports scams targeting online car buyers. The crooks spend about a hundred dollars on a junk car and get a title. Then they steal a similar car and advertise it for sale on Craigslist. This is a form of auto identity theft too. They then take the VIN plate or vehicle identification number plate out of the junk car and put it inside the stolen car.

Meanwhile Fox News also reports adoptive parents are being scammed on Craigslist . A mother from Massachusetts was horrified when she saw an ad on Craigslist of her 7-month-old son up for adoption! Reports said that someone alerted the mother to her son’s photo on Craigslist.

The baby involved in this online adoption scam is named Jake. The ad, which involved his photo, said: “A CUTE BABY BOY READY FOR ADOPTION. HE IS VERY HEALTHY”. When the mother responded to the ad, she got a response saying her son was in an orphanage.

The mother said the photo was taken from her family’s blog.  Ive said in the past when posting to social media sites don’t give away specifics. Don’t post your address, date of birth, kids’ names, pets’ names, phone numbers, or any account numbers or financial information of any kind. You really shouldn’t even post childrens’ photos online.

The mother said her son wasn’t being harmed, but felt he was violated. She alerted the FBI and the scammer had also been removed on Yahoo.

I spoke with Jeffrey A. Kasky, Esq., renowned adoption expert from OneWorldAdoption.com. He said “Families who hope to adopt a child are frequently medically unable to have children for themselves.  As such, they look at adoption opportunities from an emotional rather than a logical perspective, and are therefore more vulnerable to scams. What would tug at your heartstrings more than thinking that this beautiful little boy was stuck in an orphanage halfway around the world?  “All you have to do is wire us $300 now, then more and more and more, and he can be yours…….”

Scammers are lower than that black smelly stuff in a sewer.

No matter what you are selling or buying you must know who you are dealing with on Craigslist. When we were young, our parents told us not to talk to strangers. Strangers are not yet part of our trusted circle. So don’t trust them! There’s no benefit to paranoia, but being a little guarded can prevent you from stumbling into a vulnerable situation.  Since predators use online classifieds to lure unsuspecting victims, you should find out as much as possible about strangers who contact you, or when you contact them. Use Google or iSearch.com to investigate names and email addresses and phone numbers.

Whenever possible, deal locally. People who cannot meet you in your town are more likely to be scammers. And even when you do meet in person, you should be wary.

Never engage in online transactions involving credit cards, cashier’s checks, money orders, personal checks, Western Union, MoneyGram or cash, that require you to send money to a stranger in response to money they have sent you. This is an advance fee scam.

I- ID pre meeting. Get their name and cell phone number so you can use free iSearch.com and look for their name in social networks. If you see anything suspicious then cancel or check further Intelius.com

N- Never meet in private. Meet at a public location that involves lots of other people. The more eyeballs the better.

T- Trust your gut, and don’t discount any troubling feelings you might have about your meeting. If anything seems wrong, then it IS wrong. Cancel if necessary.

E- Enlist a friend Whenever possible, bring along a someone. There is strength in numbers. Predators thrive on isolation. By paring up, you reduce the chances of being attacked.

L- Look street smart. Don’t wear expensive jewelry nor provocative clothes. Scarves and loose fitting clothing give attackers something to grab. Wear shoes you can run and kick in

I- Intelius can help Using a product like Intelius.com allows you to do a criminal check before meeting.

Unaware creates risk. Unfortunately there is risk in meeting someone you don’t know.  Being guarded can keep you from getting into a vulnerable situation.

S- Stay in communication Make it known to your spouse or a friend where you are going and when you will be back. Have them on your cell phone while you are meeting.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing all kinds of scams on TBS Movie and a Makeover

Scams Happen to Smart People Who Do Stupid Things

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Most people are too smart to fall for a Nigerian 419 scam. But plenty of smart people fell for Bernie Madoff’s investment scams. Madoff was far more subtle than your average scammer. But in this day and age, people ought to be more alert to potential scams than ever before. And yet this wolf in sheep’s clothing was able to bilk so many investors. So it looks like we aren’t as savvy as we should be.

The root of the problem is the sheer number of scams. There are investment seminars, smoke and mirror charities, phishing emails and even text messages. I got a “phext” (phishing text message) from “r.yahoo.com” that said, “changed secret question, log in to update, or text HELP or to end STOP.” Naturally, this raised my suspicions, so I did an online search which led me to a forum discussion of this particular scam. Apparently, any response to this text message would have allowed hackers to access plenty of proprietary data.

A prominent security and privacy researcher emailed me to describe an attempted Craigslist scam:

“Robert, so, I registered on Craigslist and posted our above ground pool for sale. Within minutes got a reply from someone asking some basic questions (most of which could have been answered if they had read the advert). Their reply to my answers raised an immediate red flag. This individual claimed to be from Miami and was willing to write me a check for the full amount, plus shipping charges for their shipping company that would pick up the pool. In other words, I deposit a check (in context it seemed to be either a business or personal check, either way I would have had to wait for it to clear) and when it clears, I keep my asking price and give the difference to the shipping company when they arrive to pick up the pool.

I’ve ceased communication with this individual, but this just stinks to high heaven. First, if it is their own shipping company, why should I have to pay them? Second, no way I’m going to deposit this check into my account and risk having my bank info show up on their statement. Third, why would someone in Miami (above ground pools aren’t all that popular down there, it seems to me) want to pay to have a used above ground pool shipped all the way from New England? Fourth, I’m just nervous about stuff like that anyway.

Ever heard of/encountered that kind of situation before?”

This is an advanced fee scam! Now, since I am obsessively screaming about this stuff all day, I can see this coming from a mile away, as did my friend. But those who are less tuned in to the variety of potential scams might easily fall victim to this type of crime.

Financial troubles are forcing people to seek out new opportunities. When we are searching for jobs or attempting to sell our belongings online, or simply spending more time using social networking sites, we become more susceptible to the latest scams. But the biggest danger is our own egos and our complacency, as we foolishly believe that we are all too smart to become victims.

According to The Wall Street Journal, many scam victims are pretty smart. Three recent studies showed that victims of investment fraud tend to be better educated and have higher incomes than nonvictims, and that most have been investing for a decade or more. Because they are so confident in their own judgment, they fail to seek out professional advice.

Years ago, the Better Business Bureau conducted a test in which they planted a man dressed in normal street clothes outside a store during the holiday season. They gave the man a plastic pumpkin and a bell to ring. He spent twenty minutes ringing the bell, and during that time, people kept dropping money into the pumpkin. When the people were questioned, most believed that they had just donated to the Salvation Army, simply because the man was ringing a bell. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they opened their wallets.

Criminals aren’t any smarter than we are, but they know how to capitalize on our stupidity. You need to take steps to protect your own identity, because while you are smart enough to inform yourself about these issues, you can’t prevent some company from stupidly compromising your sensitive personal data. Prevent new account fraud by getting a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief. And invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses various scams on TBS’s Movie and a Makeover.