Phillips: Checks come across as state payments

Phillips: Checks come across as state payments

July 31st, 2010 by Ellen Phillips in Business Ellen Phillips

The July-August issue of AARP's Bulletin includes a scary alert and some savvy advice for all consumers, not just senior citizens.

The article pertains to a scam by tricksters who prey on the innocent and not-so-vigilant and, perhaps even worse, claim to originate with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Folks from all around the country are receiving checks ostensibly from this Tennessee department that look like a genuine unemployment benefits check.

The check even displays the agency's official routing number. The "money" is hyped either to be payment for mystery shopping at local Walmart or Sears stores or to be cashed and sent to London to evaluate Western Union or MoneyGram services. (Yeah, right, and on your dime since that's all many of us will have left in our account after cashing this fat phony.)

Once the check arrives in your mailbox

with instructions to deposit it in your account, the scam rears its ugly head. You're directed to spend some of the money (free fun!) at one of the local businesses, keep some, and wire the majority of the funds overseas t hrough Western Union or MoneyGram.

Well, guess what? Not only is the check bogus, but also you've now deposited it into your own banking account (where you may or may not have funds to cover the amount).

The AARP piece goes on to remind readers that, yes, mystery shopping is a legitimate source of income (which I've also discussed), but one is never paid in this manner or in large amounts.

Only after completing an assignment is a shopper paid, and payment ranges from $8 to $20 per store.

In a legitimate gig, you'd never be asked to wire a penny anywhere - especially outside U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction.

personal note

I urge everyone to attend "Pack the Park for Polio" Monday evening at 7:15 at AT&T Field. The game, sponsored by area Rotary Clubs to benefit their international Polio Plus program, costs $4. As a polio survivor, I know more than most people about the importance of eradicating this dread disease all over the world. Play ball.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business. E-mail her at