Fake Check Scams
If someone you don't know wants to send you a check, but expects you to wire some of the money back, you likely have been targeted in a fake check scam. The scam may take one of many different forms, but all operate the same way:
- A stranger overpays for goods listed for sale on-line
- A prospective tenant is interested in leasing an apartment, and sends a check for much more than the requested security deposit
- A "work at home" offer requires the worker to send payment back to the "employer"
- An initial installment on winnings of a foreign lottery or sweepstakes is paid to a surprised "winner," but the winner must pay customs or taxes on the winnings before the entire prize can be released
In each of these scams, the target or victim is given a check to deposit, but then urged to quickly wire back the amount overpaid, or the funds cleared in a work at home scheme, or an amount needed to release the remaining "winnings" in a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. The victim wires out the money as instructed, only to learn later that the check he or she received is fake. It may take weeks, even months, for a counterfeit to be identified; but by then the wire is gone and the victim loses as much as thousands of dollars.
These checks look real, even to bank tellers. Many of them appear to be cashier's checks drawn on real banks, or U.S. Postal money orders. Fraudsters know that, by law, banks must make funds available long before the checks deposited are identified as fake. A consumer may deposit these checks, but just because he or she then can withdraw the funds, it doesn't mean the check is good. The depositor is ultimately responsible for all checks deposited, and in these schemes, the depositor bears the loss.
If someone sends you a check to deposit in exchange for a return of funds via wire, you may be targeted in a fake check scam. If so, or if you've been a victim of a fake check, report it to your bank and to the National Consumers League's Fraud Center, at www.fraud.org. That information will be transmitted to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Learn more. Click on the following links for more information about fake check scams, and how to better protect yourself against financial frauds: