Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams are becoming more prominent and if you don’t know what to watch for these scams can cost you thousands of dollars. Here is what you should know about check scams.

There are many variations of fake check scams. The scam may not be easy to spot and these situations may seem realistic because the scammers go to great lengths to make the situation believable.

Here are a few examples:

Someone offering to buy something you advertised. The scammer will respond to your posting as a legitimate buyer. They may say that they will pay you by having someone in the US who owes them money send you a check. It will be for more than the sale price; you deposit the check, keep what you're owed, and wire the rest of the funds to them.

Pay you to do work at home. For payment of the work you are doing the scammer may require that you deposit checks that you receive which are for more than what you are to be paid. The scammer may claim that you will be processing checks directly from their clients which will require you to wire the excess funds to them. Or they may claim that you received the excess funds by mistake and ask that you wire these funds to them.

Advance on a sweepstakes winnings.The scammers contact you about a sweepstakes that you have won; this could be a legitimate sweepstakes or something they have made up. In the case of a foreign sweepstakes winning, the scammers may say it's too difficult and complicated to send you the money directly from their country, so they'll arrange for someone in the US to send you a check. They claim that you are required to wire them money for taxes, customs, bonding, processing, legal fees, or other expenses before you can get the rest of the money.

What you should know about the check:

The checks are fake but they look real. In fact, they look so real that even a teller may be fooled. Some are phony cashiers checks, others look like they're from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real.

Regulation requirescredit unions and banks to make the funds you deposit available quickly—normally within one to five days, depending on the type of check. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it's a cashier's check. It can take weeks for the forgery to be discovered and the check to bounce.

Who is liable for the funds?

You are responsible for the checks you deposit. That's because you're in the best position to determine the risk, you're the one dealing directly with the person who is arranging for the check to be sent to you. When a check bounces, the credit union deducts the amount that was originally credited to your account. If there isn't enough to cover it, the credit union may take money from other accounts you have at that institution, or take action to collect the funds.

What should you do if you think you are a victim of a scam?

If you have already deposited the check into your account contact your credit union immediately. If you haven’t - don't deposit it, report it! Report fake check scams to National Consumer League's Fraud Center. That information will be transmitted to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Visit the National Consumer League's Fraud Center website.