Scam Hurts Professional Caregivers, Businesses
The internet can be a valuable tool for so many honest, well-meaning people. Unfortunately, it can also be a playground for fraudsters.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to warn consumers about the dangers associated with a fraudulent check scheme designed to take advantage of those offering professional caregiving services on sites such as care.com or sittercity.com. But these individuals aren’t the only targets. Fraudsters are using the existing account and routing numbers from real businesses to counterfeit checks. Oftentimes, the scammers will go so far as to reconstruct the business’s logo in an effort to appear even more authentic. Once the check is made and the target is identified, the con artist will send a large check to the service provider and ask them to send a portion of the funds to a third party for other goods and services allegedly related to the job.
Recently, a local entity found itself in the middle of an active scam that followed a chain of events in line with the FTC’s original warning. It was only a matter of time before officials discovered that the check and the third party were fake.
“It takes only a day or two for your bank to make the money available to you, but it can take weeks for your bank to determine a check is phony. If you already withdrew that money, you’re on the hook to pay back the bank. If you’ve already transferred the money to the third party, it’s gone – like sending cash. – read the entire FTC warning.
It turns out that the local entity’s accounting vigilance and banking relationships really paid off. Rather than releasing the requested funds identified on the check, which would then be sent off to the fake third-party, the transaction was halted when the discrepancy with the numbers was identified. Because the check number and dollar amount didn’t match any payment previously authorized and issued by the entity, the bank denied payment.
Fortunately, in this scenario, the fraudster was thwarted, the entity’s funds remained secure and the service provider’s bank account remained in the black. Others won’t be as lucky. Regardless of how confident you are that this scheme would never happen to you and your business, the following are three general best practices designed to maintain your safety against a wide variety of threats.
1) Double Check Your Checks With Positive Pay
An anti-fraud service offered by most banks, Positive Pay will match the account number, check number and dollar amount of each check presented for payment against a list of checks previously authorized and issued by the company. This will help the bank determine which checks are legit and which ones should be questioned. This service helps prevent your organization’s funds from being drawn from your bank account.
2) Regularly Review Your Bank Activity
Sure the World Wide Web can be a scary place, but it’s also incredibly useful particularly when it comes to keeping tabs on your entity’s financial activity. Optimally, you should take a bit of time once a day to review your bank activity online. If you can’t monitor it that frequently, it should be a weekly goal – at least. Never, under any circumstances, wait until the end of the month to review your account. By then, it will be too late to take any meaningful action against a scam that’s already active.
3) Maintain A Positive Relationship With Your Banker
Your banker should have a seat at your advisory team’s table. Not only are they providing you with essential service, they have top-notch advice at the ready. If you don’t already, get to know your primary point of contact. Then, make it a point to build a solid relationship with them and their team. Yeah – it’s just that important. This slideshow further illustrates the importance of business/banker relationships.
Email Rea & Associates to learn more about protecting your business, entity or organization from fraud.
By Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia office)