It was all the way back in 1985 when British rockers Dire Straits took aim at people who expect "money for nothing." Now scammers are following their lead.
In fake-check scams, swindlers reel in victims with phony mystery-shopper jobs or the aforementioned sweepstakes routine. They usually mail a realistic-looking check -- expenses for the mystery-shopper gig or supposed lottery winnings -- to the target and request that he or she deposit it and wire a portion of the proceeds back to the scammer. The bank eventually realizes that the check is a fake and removes the amount from the victim's account, likely after the scammer has received his funds.
Allison Southwick of the Better Business Bureau says that people can avoid fake-check scams by following one simple rule: "Never wire money to someone you don't know."