CLEVELAND (WJW) — When the owner of a Mentor-based business was mailed a cashier’s check for $9,800 for his services, he said he knew something wasn’t right.

It was a fake check scam, according to a news release from the Better Business Bureau of Greater Cleveland — a type of scam that’s “skyrocketing” now. Though they often target consumers, businesses aren’t immune, the bureau said.

Norm Dillen, owner of Choice Home Repair, told the bureau he was contacted earlier this month via text message by a man named Howard Kirk. He claimed to be from Colorado, and wanted Dillen’s business to paint the interior walls of his newly purchased Brook Park home. The man told Dillen he found out about his business through the bureau’s website.

Though the work was estimated at $4,700, Dillen said he received a check for $9,800, more than twice the amount. It also came with convoluted instructions to put half down on the project, then pay the home’s former owner $7,500 after he was given the keys.

Dillen “immediately became suspicious” and contacted the bureau and local police, the bureau said. Using Cuyahoga County Auditor records, the bureau confirmed the scammer didn’t actually own the Brook Park home.

How to protect yourself

The Federal Trade Commission last year received 39,113 reports of fake checks or foreign money offers nationwide, totaling losses of more than $78 million, the bureau reported. That’s up from $47.4 million lost to fake check scams in 2020.

The bureau warns consumers and businesses to be wary of third parties “trying to obtain immediate payment from cashed funds or is overpaying by check and requiring quick reimbursement.”

“By law, banks must make funds available for deposited checks in a reasonable amount of time, but the bank will also recover money from the account holder when a check is discovered to be counterfeit,” reads the release. “In short, a check casher will lose any money they spent, or sent back to the scammer, once a check bounces.”

If you suspect you’re being targeted by a scam, report it to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker, to help others avoid getting scammed.