Archived Story

Check scam surfaces in city

Published 11:35am Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Bill Harrell of Alexander City got a $2,540 check in the mail, he knew something was up.

“The check is from a college in Massachusetts,” Harrell said. “The postmark from Fed-Ex looks like it was supposed to come from a company in Pennsylvania.”

The check came in a brown envelope with a Fed-Ex delivery notice, Harrell said. It was through Babson College in Massachusetts, from the Linc Group in Pennsylvania and signed by a “James Williams.”

“Most of the time you get the stuff in the mail, and it says, ‘Oh, just sign here and you’re preauthorized for a $5,000 loan,’” Harrell said.

This check, on the other hand, looked legitimate – except for Harrell wasn’t expecting $2,540.

“Something’s got to be going on, because I’m not expecting a check for that much, especially not from a college in Massachusetts or a company in Pennsylvania,” Harrell said.

Harrell said he first thought it might have been a tuition reimbursement that had gone awry or some other simple mistake. So he called the Pennsylvania-based company.

“I called the place that it was sent from, and as soon as I got on the phone with somebody … he said, ‘That name is fictitious,’” Harrell said.

Harrell said he was told that once someone deposits the check, scammers are able to get the person’s banking information.

Sgt. James Orr with the Alexander City Police Department said Harrell did the right thing by investigating the check.

“You want to exercise caution – you want restrain your impulse,” Orr said. “If it sounds to good to be true, sometimes it is.”

Orr said he encouraged people to call the Better Business Bureau, the chamber of commerce or the police if they were concerned about a possibly fraudulent email, letter or phone call.

“You always want to question all proposals, claims, services or prizes,” Orr said. “Do not release any type of personal information such as date of birth, Social Security numbers – anything that can be used in an identity theft situation.”

Harrell was told the Linc Group has a stack of “return to sender” checks from people like him and that they were currently working with a detective to get to the bottom of the issue.

“It’s crazy,” Harrell said. “I knew when I got a $2,500 check that something was going on.”