Consumer advice: Don’t cash that check if it might be bogus

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There’s been an uptick in consumers calling about the shopper scams that we’ve been warning you not to fall victim to. Even if you sign up for these shopping deals, be wary.

As part of their ploy, scammers are doing their best to make everything seem authentic so as to fool us. For example, a check isn’t for $2,500 even; no, it’s for $2,467.73. The checks look real, have watermarks and say something like Official Check across the top. Even the instructions sound plausible, if you want to believe.

But think about this: Would you send someone you don’t know a check for almost $2,500? What would stop you from just cashing the check and calling it good? Scammers aren’t worried about this because they know the check won’t clear the bank and they won’t be out any money.

In fact, the truth is, you could be out more than just money. I called a couple of local banks to see how best to handle one of these hot checks if you just feel you have to cash it. Take the check to your branch manager or personal banker and have them run some traps to see if the check is legitimate or not BEFORE you decide to put it into your account.

Why? Because some banks (I did not interview all banks, so I will make this clarification) say that if you cash a fraudulent check and it comes back as fraud, they will flag your account and close it.

Why? Because bank officials reason that you should have known the check was fake and that by cashing it you are engaging in fraudulent behavior. Your reward? A closed bank account with no chance to reopen it or get a new account at that bank.

Is trying to cash a bogus check really worth having your bank close your account? Been banking there 40 years? Doesn’t matter: Account Closed!

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LOST CARD LIMBO: The staff at our Cd’A Costco is always friendly and helpful. The following story was shared by a staff member with me.

A Cd’A resident ventured into Spokane and somewhere over there lost his wallet, which included his Costco card. Thinking the Costco card was not as valuable as credit and ATM cards, he did not immediately notify Costco of his lost card.

Unfortunately, it fell into the wrong hands and someone used his membership to write numerous checks at Costco while using his membership card. You should know that Costco does not use a point of sale check approval system so the perpetrator was able to write many checks before the crime was discovered.

After many hours of working with the Costco staff, the Cd’A man was cleared of responsibility. The moral to this story is save yourself lots of aggravation by guarding your Costco membership card and reporting it missing as soon as you are able to.

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SATELLITE RADIO WARNING: If you buy a new or used car from a dealer, think twice about their offer to activate the satellite radio for a trial period. The problem with activation is that the dealer shares all of your personal contact info, mailing address, email address, and phone number with the satellite radio company. So when the free trial period is nearing its end, be prepared for an onslaught of contact by email, snail mail, and phone calls. What’s worse is that they seem to hold onto your info for years, so the barrage of intrusions will continue unless you agree to subscribe.

If you like satellite radio and do subscribe, just be forewarned that at renewal you will have to contact them and negotiate your renewal rate, as without doing so they will automatically renew you at their “then-present rates,” which can be arbitrary and typically more expensive. They demand a credit card on file for your service so the burden of the phone call to stop or renew the service falls on the shoulders of the consumer.

But in the era we live in, there are many other options besides satellite radio; and to make satellite radio less appealing, their non-music channels have frequent commercials. Yes, you pay for it and still have to listen to commercials. The one advantage of satellite radio is that if you are in the middle of nowhere you know it will still work. Can’t say the same if you are streaming a music service through your cellphone.

Bottom line is if you find yourself driving through long desolate stretches of highway where service is poor, satellite radio is a good option; but if you are mostly driving around town you might want to forego the satellite radio activation, save yourself the unnecessary contact, and just use a music streaming service.

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REMEMBER: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email or give me a call. As The Cd’A Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. You can either email me at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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