By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item
Carol L. was extremely alarmed about something she heard while visiting a local Area Agency on Aging office last week. An elderly man had been in the office earlier, hoping the agency could help him.
“He had gotten a phone call ... and had sent them a check,” Carol L. said. “They wiped out his bank account and now he can’t even pay for his medicines.”
A call to the agency confirmed the incident.
Roger, a longtime volunteer at the office who asked not to be identified, said the elderly, disabled man had received a phone call telling him he had won a sweepstakes and that in order to receive his winnings, he had to send the company a check.
Roger didn’t know the amount of the check, but when the scammers received it, they used the information on the check to empty the man’s bank account.
“He needed to purchase medicine and he couldn’t do it because there was no money left,” Roger said.
When the bank was notified of what happened, Roger said, the man’s bank account was closed and a new one had to be opened. “The problem,” said Roger, “was that he is on assistance and his Social Security checks were being automatically deposited. Until a new account could be established, the checks couldn’t be deposited and he was out of money.”
Many fall victim to sweepstakes scams, usually by wiring money to strangers in the hope they will receive a huge amount of money in return, but some of these scams may not only steal a portion of your bank account, they could end up taking everything.
While no federal law limits your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your signature, you do have protections under state law. However in this case, the check wasn’t stolen.
People can get more information on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s (FDIC) website, which states: “Federal laws and other protections may limit your losses if you fall victim to a bank fraud or theft. A swindler runs up a big bill on your credit card or steals hundreds of dollars from your bank account. Do you suffer the loss? In many cases of bank crimes, your liability is limited by law or industry practices to the first $50 of loss, but that depends on the type of account and how quickly you report the problem.”