A Revelstoke business owner is warning the community to be vigilant with banking after losing money in a scam.
Glen Cherlet, owner of Begbie BBQ, is on the hook for $4,600 after depositing a cheque that bounced from a supposed client.
Cherlet received an email inquiry about catering for an 80th birthday party, he proceeded to arrange a menu and delivery time with a woman who identified herself as “Kara”.
The payment arrived by mail and was $3,000 more than they had agreed upon. “Kara” said that there had been a mistake and that the extra money was for the event planner and asked Cherlet deposit the cheque and transfer that amount to a third party.
A few days later Cherlet got a phone call from Revelstoke Credit Union saying the cheque had bounced. Now Cherlet is on the hook for $4,600, though he said the bank has given him an interest free loan to cover the shortfall.
This scam is known as an overpayment scam.
— Canadian Anti-Fraud / En français: @antifraudecan (@canantifraud) August 30, 2019
“These scams are successful because the criminals take advantage of good and honest people who are just trying to be helpful and cooperative,” said Roberta Bobicki, CEO of Revelstoke Credit Union, in an email.
For the majority of cheque deposits the funds are available right away. Holds are very inconvenient for customers, Bobicki said.
“Whether we put a hold on the cheque is based on our relationship with that customer,” she explained. “Do they have the resources and character to be responsible if there is a problem with the cheque? With the thousands of cheques we handle we cannot possible get a back story for each cheque presented.”
Though banks do have insurance to cover fraud, it is only in situations where the customer played no part in the loss, for example if a card was skimmed without the customer’s knowledge. And the deductible is $1,000.
Bobicki said that in cases where personal credentials are hacked and used to access accounts the bank cannot cover those losses.
“As much as we would like to provide refunds in these situations, the liability is simply too great as we have no control over how people manage their digital world,” she said.
A videographer in Kelowna, Conar Fair reported nearly falling for the same scheme earlier this year; the woman who reached out to him via text was planning an 80th birthday party but said she was running out of cheques.
They asked if, once Fair received the money, he could transfer the caterer’s fee to their “son-in-law.” Then the so called son-in-law could make the payment to the caterers.
However, instead of depositing the cheque Fair took it to a bank teller who noticed that the cheque was falsified.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received 683 reports of counterfeit cheques used in “sale of merchandise scams” from 2016 until now, with a total loss of more than $567,000.
However, the centre estimates that less than 5 per cent of mass marketing fraud is ever reported.
Tips to protect your money:
- Don’t trust anyone that you don’t’ know well.
- Never agree to return a portion of money received that exceeds what you expected in the first place.
- Don’t accept anything but guaranteed funds from someone you don’t know.
- Ask to put a hold on the cheque at your bank if you are worried that it might bounce.
- Don’t give your personal information over the phone.
- If you get a message from the Canada Revenue Agency, your bank or any other institution find your own contact number and call them back to ensure it is a legitimate correspondence.
- Never turn over the merchandise until you have cash or guaranteed funds.
Report fraud to the Revelstoke RCMP by calling their office at 250-837-5255. Report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501 or going online at services.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/chooser-eng.html?ipeReferer=CAFCFRS