TV-6 Investigates: Check scam hitting QCA
You work hard for your money, but scammers work just as hard to take it from you. A new check scam is making the rounds with victims targeted across the country, including one right here in the Q.C.A.
Checks bearing the name CMOUTS, LLC have been popping up across the country, mailed to people told to cash them. They look legit, and their appearance is key to the scam. The checks are fake, and the victims don't know until it's too late.
Steve Hawkins retired a month ago and wanted to earn some cash while he waits on his first social security check.
Hawkins said, "I won't get my first check for two months, so I'll have no funds coming in for two months so I was going to take a part time job which was all I needed."
He said he posted his info to several online job boards and soon got a text offering him a mystery shopper job.
Hawkins said, "From my background, what I knew because I've dealt with secret shoppers all my life, I thought it was great."
Hawkins showed TV-6 Investigates the envelope the company sent him these checks in. Hawkins deposited the check, like this one, sent the money to Texas, and a week later the bank said the check bounced.
"I was the one that was out of the money, and I understand that it was $2,500," said Hawkins.
He fell victim to an old scam. The US Postal Inspection Service has warned of it since 2007. But the scammers did quite a bit to cover their tracks. The checks were supposedly mailed from a business in Montana. It's actually a house up for sale. The business exists, but its name changed six years ago, and it doesn't have a Montana location. The other company listed on the check is real too, but the owner said she doesn't hire mystery shoppers.
"No, I'm a government contractor," said CMOUTS LLC CEO Wendy Jardine.
Her company makes training structures for the special forces. Jardine says none of the names trace back to her company and the account number on the check is also bad.
"The account would not show up, I had to go into boxes to confirm the account number on the check was not my account number," said Jardine.
Hawkins is left warning other viewers to verify your checks while he absorbs a $2,500 loss.
"When you don't have funds coming in it's a big punch to the gut," said Hawkins.
The National Check Fraud Center, which is a private group, tells folks to call the bank listed on the check to see if it's real. The center's founder Charles Bruce said given how prevalent these types of scams are, almost any check mailed to you unexpectedly, is probably fake.
He also said legitimate companies will need to have you provide tax information for a job. He said if there's no W-2, it's not a real job.