Fake grant checks mean fake money

June 6, 2008 9:30:23 PM PDT
How would you like an extra $5,000 to do whatever you want?That's exactly what one Houston woman got. But with free money, there usually comes a catch. It's been a while since we've seen fake checks being sent to the Houston area. Now they are back and more elaborate than ever but no less damaging to your bank account

"I opened it up and thought, 'how wonderful, this will be great,'" said Kathryn Gibbs who got a fake check.

Gibbs got a very real looking $4,980 check. It's from someone named Al Snyder. The letter explains Gibbs is a non applicant grant winner which means she never applied for a grant, but got one anyway.

"When I opened it, I thought this is such a blessing, it would so cool," she said.

The grant check is just the first Gibbs is to receive. To get another $5,000, Gibbs was instructed to go to a web site called awardchecks.com. The site has pictures of more than a half dozen grant brokers.

"They all look like real nice people, they really do," Gibbs said.

By clicking on Al Snyder's link, grant winners learn Al is out of the country, but he has that second grant check with him. The site goes on to explain grant winners need to go to a CVS or Walgreens to buy something called a GREENDOT Universal Reload Card.

GREENDOT cards allow consumers to put up to $500 on a cash card that spends much like a credit card.

After buying the GREENDOT card, grant winners have to use the award checks web site to send the account number to Mr. Snyder who can then get his $500 commission.

We found several others across the nation who claimed they got the same check from the same Mr. Snyder.

Assistant District Attorney John Boone looked at a copy of the letter and the check and says none of it is real, adding he sees victims of fake checks all the time. He says the grant is just another tool for criminals.

"It looks so simple, but it will hound you for months if not years," he warned.

Fortunately Mrs. Gibbs did not deposit the fake check.

Remember if you deposit a fake check, the bank will hold you liable for the amount you deposited. In this case, the bank would eventually figure out the check was not real and you'd be on the hook for $5,000.

How can someone tell if a check is not real?

Well the first, any check that arrives out of the blue is probably a fake, but you can take the check to the bank that appears in the check and ask if it's real. We took the grant check to Washington Mutual and a teller confirmed within five minutes it was a fake.

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