Brandon woman foils scammer's fake check plot

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BRANDON, S.D. (KSFY) - A Brandon woman says she nearly got taken for a scammer, but thanks to her IT training at work, she knew she needed to dig a little deeper to find out what was going on.

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the town, many packages are arriving, safe and sound ...

"I opened it up and inside there was just -- there was no letter, was just a check from this company," Kayla Bell of Brandon, said. "The envelope was from California, the company was out of Illinois."

It appeared as a present, a $1,950 check nestled neat in a box, but it was something more sinister, something that could present a loss.

"But the check, it had like a frayed edge, it looked very, it looked real," Bell said. "But I was like, 'I'm not expecting...' and there's no letter like, 'We're paying you this for a dividend."

Bell called the company, they handled her with care, and said there was no record of payment, no check, from there...

"I was like, 'Are you guys sending out checks? Do I have some trust I don't know about?'" Bell said. "And she's like, 'No,' and so then I looked up the routing number and sure enough the routing number did match the bank."

She sprang from her home, to downtown Sioux Falls she went, she wanted answers about whether this money could be spent ...

"They [Wells Fargo] have a database, they could see that, yes, both the routing number and the account number matched for this company and this bank but they never write checks out of this account," Bell said.

The bankers went to work on this fraudulent check, a con meant to hurt someone much more low tech.

"It's always very smart for a customer, whether it's Wells Fargo or for any bank, to go into their bank and speak to a banker to verify that what they received is legitimate," John Hobot, spokesperson for Wells Fargo said. "The unfortunate thing is fraud scams come in a variety of forms ."

Had she cashed the check, it may have caused some plight ...

"I would've been stuck with the fraudulent charges, on top of that when the check is cashed, I guess on the back, it does show of my bank information and that would've been sent back to whoever had sent this check," Bell said.

Now Bell wants to warn others so all can have a good Christmas night.

"There's a lot of people, elderly or especially during Christmas season, thinking, 'This offsets our Christmas presents,' or, 'What a little blessing this was,' and not think about it and would end up having a horrible financial situation."

Bell said the previous tenant of her townhome also received the same package with a check. She found the woman on Facebook and with her permission opened her package as well. The check was almost identical but the check number had been changed. Both checks and packaging were turned over to the bank so the information could be flagged for fraud.

Wells Fargo told KSFY News what Bell did was correct -- taking the checks to the bank -- and that it iss the best course of action if you haven't actually been scammed yet, otherwise, you should contact law enforcement.

The check Bell received came from a company called Mission Investment Fund, they help provide loans for churches and other religious organizations. KSFY News tried to reach them on Friday to see if this has happened before, but they were closed in observance of Christmas.