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Trine University warns of fraudulent check scam

Trine University is warning consumers of a scam involving fraudulent checks that appear to be from the university.

The university has received reports from around the United States of people receiving and attempting to cash the checks, most of which are connected to an online sale. The perpetrator will send a fraudulent Trine check made out for an amount greater than the total sale, and ask the seller to deposit the check and send the excess money back.

Sometimes, the scammer will ask for the seller’s bank account information.

“Trine University does not purchase items from Craigslist, and we would never issue a check for this purpose,” said Jody Greer, vice president for finance.

The checks appear authentic and include Trine’s actual bank account information and a signature from the vice president for finance.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that fraudsters will often replace the phone number on a counterfeit check with a number they can answer if someone calls the “business” to see if the check is legitimate.

Anyone who has a question about a check they have received from Trine University should contact Danielle Ruchgy, Trine University staff accountant, at ruchgyd@trine.edu or (260) 665-4212.

According to the BBB, having funds credited to a bank account does not mean a cashed check is valid.

Federal banking rules require that when someone deposits a check into an account, the bank must make the funds available right away – within a day or two.

It is only when the check works its way back to the bank that supposedly issued the check that it is discovered to be counterfeit. The victim’s bank, in turn, has the right to recover the money from the account holder.

The university began getting reports around the Christmas holiday. While most have been from outside northeast Indiana, one fraudulent check was recently presented at the Fifth Third Bank branch in Angola.

“Most people are suspicious because they do not have an affiliation with Trine University and know something isn’t right, so they call,” Greer said.

However, 52 of the fraudulent checks have been cashed or deposited. The university has protection against being charged for the checks, but unfortunately, that leaves scam victims on the hook.

According to the BBB, frauds employing fake checks are growing rapidly and cost billions of dollars, with the number of complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel database (Sentinel) and the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IC3) more than doubling between 2014 and 2017. The National Consumers League (NCL), which also receives complaints from fraud victims, found that fake check complaints were the second most common type of complaint over all, after goods ordered online but never delivered.

Fake checks were involved in 7 percent of all complaints filed with BBB Scam Tracker.

In addition to online purchase scams, the BBB states that fake checks are used in a variety of frauds such as mystery shopper or nanny “jobs,” as well as prize and sweepstakes scams. In all these scams, victims have to send money to the fraudsters. After depositing the check, victims are asked to quickly wire money or buy gift cards that eventually make their way to the fraudsters before the checks bounce.

For more information on fake check scams, visit bbb.org/fakecheckscam. Scams can be reported to the BBB at BBB.org/scamtracker or by calling (800) 552-4631.