In tough economic times like these, no one can afford to lose money to fraud. But more than a million people in the U.S. have been lured into accepting phony checks and money orders and wiring money to crooks. That’s why Consumer Federation of America has launched a campaign aimed at preventing people from becoming victims. There are many variations of these scams: they may claim that you’ve won a sweepstakes or been selected to receive a cash grant, or offer you a job processing payments for a foreign company or being a “mystery shopper,” or they may say they want to buy something you advertised for sale online. They send you a genuine looking check or money order and ask you to wire a portion of the money somewhere in return. But while the pitch sounds convincing, it’s as phony as the check. And when the check bounces, you are on the hook to repay your credit union or bank, not the crook. At CFA, we’re working with other consumer organizations, government agencies, financial service companies, and others to raise public awareness about these scams – not only consumers but people who work at banks, credit unions, and check cashing services and in consumer protection and law enforcement agencies. We want to encourage proactive approaches that prevent people from getting as far as the money transfer service, because once they’ve sent the money, it’s gone. There is more information at www.consumerfed.org/fakecheckscams and at www.fakechecks.org. This is a preventable crime once people understand that there is no legitimate reason why anyone who wants to send them a check or money order would ever ask them to send money anywhere in return!