San Rafael family's moving plans thwarted over check scam

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Scammers have mastered ways to manipulate the current system of making a bank deposit and now the feds are looking to fight back. (KGO-TV )

The way you make a bank deposit may be a thing of the past. Scammers have mastered ways to manipulate the current system and now the feds are looking to fight back.

The Harts fell victim to a scam on Craigslist. Now new payment systems are being considered to prevent similar scams in the future.

Jared Hart spiffs up the boat his family calls home. It's docked in a Marina in San Rafael and the Hart's live there at a cost far less than an apartment.

His original plan was to convert an old school bus into an RV, but he had to abandon that plan when the bus broke down.

"Life circumstances worked out where I just couldn't afford to put the money into it," Hart said.

He put his bus up for sale on Craigslist. The hope was to raise enough money to move back to Arizona.

A buyer sent him a certified check for $2,500 dollars, which included $1,300 for the cost of shipping the bus.

The bank cleared the check in two days. Hart withdrew $1,300 and sent it off to what the buyer told him was the shipping company. The next day his account was overdrawn. The check the bank had cleared earlier had bounced.

"I said don't you make sure that the check is a valid check before you release the funds to the people and they said, 'No that's your responsibility to know whether it's a valid check or not. How am I supposed to know,'" Hart said.

The loss of the money stunned the Harts. Their dream of moving back to Arizona was shattered.

Suzanne Martindale of Consumers Union says under current laws, what the bank did was legal.

"So even if a check has quote un quote cleared, and it appears in your account, that money is still there provisionally and it can take an extra day for the check to fully settle," Martindale said.

The payment system now used in the United States is considered by many to be outdated. Federal regulators are moving to develop a faster more secure system.

"The future is here and consumers today expect real time payment processing," she said.

The Federal Reserve confirms it is considering new alternatives, but won't disclose what's on the table.

The Harts received a surprise gift from the families of their son's wrestling team -- a check to make up for some of the money they lost.

"What they did in helping us to move forward, I will never forget. And I just want to say thank you," Christine Hart said.

With the gift, the harts have been able to move to Arizona to start a new life

Consumers Union says the safest form of payment right now is the credit card. Just make sure your balance is not higher than what you can afford to pay off.
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