I-Team 10 Consumer Alert: Empty promises

Posted at: 06/17/2013 4:45 PM
Updated at: 06/17/2013 5:59 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

You've seen the ads for “work at home” jobs. The flexibility is very appealing for mothers juggling different schedules, but you need to be cautious because you could end up on the losing end of empty promises.

Alana Howell, fraud victim, said, “I wanted to do something that could work around the schedules of all the kids cause everybody had different schedules and especially with the baby.”

A sentiment many parents can relate to. Alana Howell, a single mother with four children, needed to supplement her income.

Howell said, “I was on the internet, looking for an online job and I got an email and it said they were looking for representatives in this state to build a bigger business.”

Howell was told she would be paid for depositing checks the company sent her into her account and then sending a percentage back to the company.

Howell said, “I went to the bank, deposited the checks. They sent me two checks, totaling almost $4,000. About three days later, I received note saying they're fraudulent checks and I was now in a hole."

Howell now owes the bank more than $3,000 and things have gotten worse.

Howell said, “I'm still stuck in a problem with the bank and my credit is going down and it is hard for me to pay that back because I have other bills I'm taking care of. It is really, really tough. It makes me feel terrible and vulnerable. After a while, I felt kind of silly and I think, 'why did I do that?' But I didn't know.”

George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney General, said, “Keep in mind these people are sophisticated. They do this a lot.”

Law enforcement says this type of scam is on the rise. Suspects are sending out thousands of fake checks and trying to beat the system.

Jepsen said, “The scam artist is counting on the bank releasing the money or you having sufficient funds in your account to cover the expense check back to the scam artist. You don't discover the check is going to bounce until after you've wired or sent the money back to the scam artist."

Victims are then responsible to the bank for the fraudulent check amounts deposited. Howell is angry.

Howell said, “I'm a single mom. I'm already struggling as it is taking care of what I need to take care of and then you have people taking away from you and you're trying to make better for you and your family.”

Alana is still struggling in her dispute with her bank. She has a red flag on her banking account, which will not allow her to open any other banking accounts in other cities and states.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Postal inspectors say you should always be suspicious of a deal that is "too good to be true."  And if you're not sure whether an opportunity you learn about through the mail or internet is legitimate, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.