Check Scams

Don’t get scammed out of your hard earned money! There are many variations of the counterfeit check scam. Modern computer technology allows crooks to easily create realistic looking personal checks, business checks, Cashier’s Checks or Money Orders. It could start with someone giving you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve supposedly won, a great work from home offer or asking you to help a family in a foreign country by transferring funds to your account for safekeeping. Whatever the pitch, don’t get caught with your guard down.

Here are some tips that will help you avoid becoming the victim of a counterfeit check scam:

  • Shred any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. Legitimate sweepstakes offer consumers a chance to win a prize or money with no purchase or entry fee required.
  • Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money or send a check to strangers. If you must send a check, consider utilizing a Cashier’s Check or Money Order instead of your own personal check to keep your personal information safe.
  • Watch out for any lottery, secret shopper or business offer that involves you receiving a check and requires you to forward money by MoneyGram or Western Union.
  • If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the exact amount. If the buyer refuses to send the exact amount, don’t send the merchandise or a refund.
  • Resist pressure to act immediately. Any legitimate offer should still be good after the check clears.
  • If you’re concerned about the validity of a check, either contact the Financial Institution by telephone (via the number you looked up) or take the check to the local branch office of that Institution.
    • Checks cannot be emailed because that would mean that the check is a copy, not the original, and you will need the original to deposit the check. The bank will in all likelihood view it as fraud if you try to deposit a copy of a check. It’s essentially a form of counterfeiting.
    • A picture of a check isn’t a real check and the bank would not be able to cash it for you, or deposit it. They’d need the real live check with front and back available for their use. It is not possible as the checks will have no legal validity and you will not be able to cash the check.
    • Mobile deposit scams, or fake check scams, involve fraudsters depositing fake checks into victims’ bank accounts to gain access to their money. Once these deposits are made, victims are asked to withdraw the funds and return them, usually through a third-party money transfer account.
  • Watch out for any job opportunity that asks you to be a money transfer agent. Legitimate businesses should not ask you to deposit their checks into your personal account, then instruct you to forward the funds by wire or send by MoneyGram/Western Union to other individuals or to accounts in other countries.
  • It’s best not to rely on money from any type of check unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with or, better yet until your financial institution confirms that the check has cleared. Forgeries can take weeks to be returned through the banking system, and until you have confirmation that the funds from a check have cleared your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check, whether or not the financial institution places a hold on them.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It is illegal to play foreign lotteries in the United States. If you are notified that you are a winner of a lottery that you didn’t enter, chances are you’re being scammed.
  • Monitor your checking account activity carefully. A counterfeiter only needs to obtain the MICR line (those funny looking numbers on the bottom of your check) to create fake checks that are presented against your account.
  • Immediately report if you think you’re a victim of a check fraud scheme or if you notice something suspicious. Contact your Financial Institution as well as the local police department, or your local FBI Field Office.