DON’T Be the Victim of a Check Scam!
There is never a legitimate reason for someone to give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money back to them.
Check scams are not new and scammers continue to find new ways to fool people into giving away thousands of their own dollars every year. One thing check scams have in common is that you are asked to cash or deposit a check and wire some or all of the money back to the sender. Wiring money enables the scammer to avoid detection.
Counterfeit checks look like real personal, or company bank checks, money orders, payroll checks or cashier’s checks.
Four Known Check Scams
Secret Shopper Scam
Scammers advertise jobs promising easy income for completing a secret shopping assignment. When you call to inquire, you may feel secure because you’ve spoken with a real person. Receiving instructions, evaluation forms and a check in the mail may increase your sense of security. The assignment is to evaluate a money transferring service and instructions have you deposit the check into your account and use some of the funds to wire money back to the employer through a money transferring company. Then you are supposed to evaluate the service you received. Your payment is the remainder of the check that you don’t wire back. BUT...the check is fake and the money you wire them is your own.
Scammers send prize award letters informing the recipient that they have won a large sum of money. A check for part of the prize money is included which leads the recipient to believe the prize is real. To receive the rest of the prize the winner is instructed to wire money back to the sender to cover the cost of taxes and fees. However, there is no prize, the check is fake and you have just sent your money to a stranger.
Check Overpayment Scam
A scammer offers to buy an item you have advertised for sale online. They offer to pay by check or money order and then ‘accidentally’ send more than the purchase price. You are asked to wire the extra amount back to them - but the check they sent was fake and you have just sent them your money.
Student Check Cashing Scam
These scammers usually contact people by email and pose as an American student or a person working overseas. They say they are having a problem cashing a check and need the money for something important and ask for your help. A check or money order is sent to you at the address you give them and you are asked to cash or deposit it at your bank, keep some of the money as payment and then wire the rest to them. The check or money order is counterfeit and is worthless.
Why Can’t the Bank Spot a Fake?
Some counterfeit checks or money orders are hard to detect - even by bank employees. They look exactly like genuine checks.
Scammers use high quality scanners and printers to create checks and money orders with actual names, addresses and account numbers of legitimate financial institutions making them appear legitimate.
Because federal law requires banks to make deposited funds available to you within a certain amount of time, usually 1-5 days, you may be able to withdraw the funds before the check actually clears.
Until the bank confirms that a check has cleared and the funds have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds withdrawn against that check and any fees charged if your account is overdrawn.
Protect Yourself - Never accept a check or money order written for more than the amount owed.
- Never wire money to a stranger.
- Do not participate in any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift.
- If you think someone is trying to use you in a fake check scam don’t cash the check. Report it!
- If someone wants to pay you by check insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount from a local bank or a bank with a local branch. Wait for the check to clear before giving the buyer anything.