Check scams threaten Claremont

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

That’s what authorities are telling area residents about mail scams that are costing some Catawba County residents money and personal security.

The scams mostly come in the form delivery and electronic mail, authorities say, and they can give thieves access to personal bank information if not handled properly.

Tammy G. Sigmon, of Claremont, received a check in the mail through FedEx this week for $3,000. The check was supposedly sent through Key Bank NA in Brooklyn, Ohio from WakeFern Food Corp. in New Jersey.

Though the company and bank do exist – and there is a routing number linked to an open account – the funds inside the account are insufficient. 
Sigmon caught on to the scam before cashing the check and publicizing her personal information, but Catawba County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Eric Kanipe said victims fall for check gimmicks all the time.

Kanipe said the sheriff’s office provides fraud programs for citizens often to make them aware of the many different types of popular scams.

“Another big scam that is going around is when you put something for sale (online),” Kanipe said. “The (scammers) will send you a check for more money than they owe you, and then ask for the extra money back.

Three days later, the bank will tell you it’s a bad check, after you’ve already sent them a check for the extra money. That generally is the one that really gets people bad.”

Because the scams occur online, through the mail and use existing businesses and banks, it can be hard to determine the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. Kanipe said it’s best to be wary of unexpected money heading your way.

“The best thing they can do is contact their bank so they can run the information on the check,” Kanipe said. “They should hold it for a few days and not do anything with it.”

There are also websites that provide free credit checks for citizens once a year, such as Equifax Security Freeze, Kanipe said.

Claremont Police Capt. Gary Bost said fraud scams like Sigmon’s occur from time to time in the city. He also said that if anything looks suspicious, the best thing for citizens to do is contact their bank.

Because most of the scammers operate outside of the country, Bost said it’s hard to prosecute the individuals involved.

“Usually, we try to stop it from happening,” Bost said. “We usually go and talk to the victims about how to identify the scams. It’s happening a lot, but our banks are also really good about dealing with (fraudulent material).”

Claremont Police Chief Gerald Tolbert said a scammer tried to pay one of his officers more money than was owed on an item.

“If someone sends you a check you don’t know you’re going to receive, it’s probably a scheme,” Tolbert said. “If it’s unsolicited and too good to be true, it probably is.”