WASHINGTON, D.C. (10/15/10)--A new consumer education program to protect consumers and financial institutions from fake-check scams has been launched in Colorado with the support of credit unions and the Credit Union Association of Colorado. Other supporters include the Colorado Bankers Association, the Independent Bankers of Colorado, the AARP Foundation/Colorado ElderWatch program, the Colorado office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Currently, 21 financial institutions—including five credit unions--have signed on to participate. They will hand out CFA’s brochure, Don’t Be A Target
--written in English and Spanish about fake-check scams and similar frauds--to consumers who deposit checks or money orders of $1,000 or more, or who withdraw $1,000 or more from their accounts. "The key is to prevent consumers from being victimized by educating them about these scams at the very point where they may be at risk," said Susan Grant, CFA's director of Consumer Protection, who is coordinating the program. In fake-check scams, a consumer receives a genuine-looking check or money order for something and is asked to wire money somewhere in return. Examples include sending an "advance" on a sweepstakes or lottery winnings. Or a consumer--recruited to work at home as a "mystery shopper" or processing payments for a company--is instructed to send money elsewhere as part of the job. The check or money order is phony, and when it bounces, the victim owes the financial institution where it was deposited or cashed. The average loss is $3,000 to $4,000. “Every year, Coloradans of all stripes fall victim to check-cashing scams," said Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers. "One of the best ways to prevent yourself from being victimized is to recognize the warning signs of check scams. The most glaring sign of a check-fraud scam is if the person or organization sending you the check asks you to wire back part of the money. If this is the case, it is a scam.” The Credit Union Association of Colorado said, "Because of the close relationship that credit unions have with their members, they're committed to doing whatever they can to protect them from fraud." CFA provides training materials to institutions participating and advice about handing out the brochures. In addition to the brochures, there are two electronic versions, one in English and the other in Spanish, as well as a PowerPoint presentation for consumers and other educational materials, on CFA's website (use the resource link). Credit unions in Colorado interested in participating should contact Grant at 202-387-6121. The credit unions that are participating thus far in Colorado are:
* Arapahoe CU, Littleton; * Community Choice CU, Commerce City; * Credit Union of Colorado, Denver; * Rio Grande Operating CU, Denver; and * St. Vrain Valley CU; Longmont.