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Anatomy of a fake check scam

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Fake checks drive many types of scams – like those involving phony prize wins, fake jobs, mystery shoppers, online classified ad sales, and others. In a fake check scam, a person you don’t know asks you to deposit a check – sometimes for several thousand dollars and usually for more than what you are owed – and wire some of the money back to that person. The scammers always have a good story to explain the overpayment – they’re stuck out of the country, they need you to cover taxes or fees, you need to buy supplies, or something else. But by the time your bank discovers you’ve deposited a bad check, the scammer already has the money you sent, and you’re stuck paying the rest of the check back to the bank.

The Federal Trade Commission receives tens of thousands of reports each year about fake checks. Over the last three years, the number of complaints has steadily increased, and so have the dollars lost.

The FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, offers some tip-offs to rip-offs and what to do if you get a check from someone you don’t know.

Please share this information with others. Victims may be embarrassed to talk about their experiences, but you can help. A simple phone call, email or text, saying “Look what I just found” and sharing this information may make a difference in someone else’s life.

Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free consumer alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/subscribe.

Comments

How long can the bank go back to reverse the charges, in other words how long should we wait be removing the money?

It’s best not to rely on money from a cashiers, business or personal check, or money order until the bank confirms that the check has cleared. It can take weeks for a bank to discover and untangle a forged check. Until the bank confirms that the funds from the check have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check.

The bank in my instience informed me they can go back 3 years for a check to be returned. I did not take any money from the check out my account for over 3 months, to double check if it was cleared. Over 6 months later the check was returned. From a client i worked for.

If someone mails you a check don’t cash it.

This infographic is great though it comes a little too late for me. What it doesn't say is that the consumer cannot hold the bank responsible for a fraudulent check. There is no recourse. When a consumer endorses and cashes a check, the money becomes the consumer's responsibility. A "cleared" check may not be a valid check.

You are so right! A "cleared" check may not be a valid check. My bank sent notice that the availability for an 'over $7000' check was put on hold. Three days later the hold was lifted, but the funds were still not available. It's the law that the bank can hold a check up to 3 days.

thanks for the tip I would never take a check without investigating it first plus talk with my bank.I got a letter from an insurance co.to do an application over that I already got rejected because of past operations.They requested a blank check along with the new application which I did not do as I already sent them a voided blank check the last time.The thing that was fishy is that this application said reply by 8/22/18 when I got this application was on 9/1/18 and to send a blank check that was for my bank to send money to the insurance co if I got approved.#1 I would never send a blank check without voiding the check.What I did was send back the blank application explaining I got turned down already a month ago along with copy of letter I sent with my last application.That ins was AARP New York Life.Maybe someone duplicated it all trying to get a blank check?

I am selling a motorcycle on Craigslist. A buyer contacted me and is sending me or sent me four times the amount that I asked for. I thought this strange. I showed the check to the bank manager. She said, that she thinks it is a scam and that is a fake check. She suggested I contact the police. Unfortunately the agency that takes care of bank fraud and bad checks is closed due to the shutdown. What do I do now I really don't know

Awesome information. Thank you for sharing!!

I HAVE A FOLDER IN MY EMAIL. I THINK MANY OF THEM IF NOT ALL ARE SCAMS. ALL HAVE MY EMAIL ADDRESS. SHOULD I SEND THEM TO YOU? SO YOU CAN LOOK THEM OVER? OR IS THERE ANOTHER GROUP THAM CAN SEE WHAT THEY ARE?

You can forward unwanted or deceptive messages to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.

My minor son listed his bicycle for sale on Craigslist and a potential buyer tried this. Luckily I found out and contacted the scammer, who denied it was a scam. She wanted to send someone to pick up the bike. She would mail a check in the meantime. I hope taking advantage of a minor is a worse offense and has worse consequences. Criminals have no conscience.

"What it doesn't say is that the consumer cannot hold the bank responsible for a fraudulent check. There is no recourse" Why would the bank be responsible? For all the bank knows, you printed the fake check yourself. That's not an uncommon scheme, then try to blame it on mysterious third parties. Be glad the bank doesn't try to press charges on you for passing bad paper.

Be careful too of Money orders. Scammers love to use those.

About 2 years ago, 4 unknown people from different states called our company, in a span of two weeks, regarding checks they said had a return address of our business address, but the checks showed different business name and addresses. We asked all four of them to send us the checks. Sure enough, they were fake checks, with 4 different company names but the same looking check signed by the same person. We are so glad that these people were smart enough to realize that something is off. These 4 people must have googled the addresses and realized that it is not the correct business, the reason they called us first instead of running to the bank and cashing them. The checks ranged from $740 to $2300. By the way, these 4 separate checks were made out to real names and their real home addresses. Very scary. Please readers, do not cash any fake-looking check, especially if it is from an unknown source, without taking it to your bank first and have it examined by them.

I had same thing happen and was told to send majority of funds to the sender.. As you can assume i cashed the checks at a few different costumer service center's like walmart; there were 4 all together iv recently received a federal charge for 1. Which then i became aware of the actions iv put myself in. And i have attempted to contact the institutes where i cashed the checks to pay them back. However the institutes say any information on those over a month is passed on to verify a check where they handle the process for returning there funds for cashing the false checks.. Dose any 1 have any good idea of what i can do to keep these other 3 also from turning into fed charges too?

I was alerted to my fake check scam because the company name was Z, the name on the check was Y, and the name on the envelope was X. A friend or frenemy told me about a "Virtual Assistant" job. I hope she was caught and arrested.

It is getting even more high tech now. I was contacted thru LinkedIn about a job from one of the contacts I had. A cashiers check was sent to me via UPS and I deposited it. The funds were made available immediately. I was contacted to purchase equipment from a supplier and I was so excited about this job I went ahead and forwarded the money to an account they provided. Obviously the check had no funds attached and I was scammed for the money. I contacted my local bank and wanted to alert them to this assuming the account I forwarded this money to would be closed and gone. But to my surprise the company is a large shipper in TX and they are able to see my deposit. My bank contacted the other bank and we are waiting to here from them. The question I asked was if a deposit was made for service and no service was rendered how do I get my money back? The scam is obviously being run by an operator within this large shipping company’s accounting department. Because I’m told the deposit I made would certainly be lost in the large amounts of money coming in and out of that company.

Can you please tell us who the company was? Everyone wants to keep them secret, but all that does is allow them to keep taking advantage of people. I have a company called JCOM from japan that wants to hire me, but is telling me I can't be trained until I receive some special equipment. They will send me a check for $7500 and then I am to purchase the equipment. Sounds like a scam to me.

I have been contacted by the same company JACCS Co. Ltd from Japan. Did this turn out to be a scam?

While.looking for employment online thru zip recruiter? indeed , career.com etc. I was emailed and texted by Dr. Juan Carlos
sent a cashiers check ( pic below ) to purchase office eqiupment !?
I was to deposit check and email copy of deposit slip AND a copy of my drivers license ( NOT ) .
Its very unfortunate that these scammers are so low to prey on people like me just looking for a job to make ends meet

Did you ever hear back from JCOM.. they just contacted me a few days ago im trying to see if they are LEGIT LEGIT, i mean i spoke to they "HR".. had a whole skype interview.. And i went on the website. I wasnever offered a check. And I was told my payrate. and start date. Did you ever hear back?

What about when an employees of the USPS steals you check, rewrites it, cashes it? Now ever account /bill has to be changed to a new checking accounting. Someone steals and the consumers receives no recomponse for all the money lost, time, aggravation. Not even an apology - meaningful one.

You can report identity theft to www.IdentityTheft.gov and create a personal recovery plan. You can get letters and forms you need to repair problems caused by identity theft.

great info..thanks for making this info available. Unfortunately there and too many people who are not online and may become scam victims unknowingly...before they realize what has happened to them.

OMG!!! This scam has been running for years. Is it possible that the FTC is just now releasing a consumer warning??

Go along with there bull and send them a fake check.

Bad advise as that is check fraud.

What if they send you 2 checks and they keep asking to depoisite it

Don't deposit it! Maybe try and get them by going to the bank that the check is drawn from, bring your electric bill or some mail or other bill that came with your name on it, tell them you don't have a drivers license( so no license #),and CASH it!

You are responsible for the checks you deposit. If you deposit a bad check, and take money out right away, but the bank later finds out that the check isn't good, you will have to repay the bank.

Under federal law, the bank must give you some of the money from a check you deposit right away. But that doesn't prove that the check is legitimate. It can take weeks for a bank to find out that a check is no good. You are taking a risk if you deposit a check from someone you don't know and give them cash now. You could end up owing the bank money later.

Why is Federal Trade Commission not doing anything to hold bankers accountable for taking checks, and not using technologies to test the check?

Banks by now should have high level technologies to prevent Tellers from taking and depositing fake checks. Who is outsmarting who? Where is the FBI in this? Why are there thousand of claims but nothing legal is done to hold Banks responsible, too.

No such technology exists. The bad guys can purchase check stock from any office supply store, enter stolen information into software such as Quickbooks and create checks to send out. The bank accepting the deposit via a teller or mobile deposit through an app has no idea who owns the account or what valid signature should look like. The bank the check is drawn on will not share information citing their customer privacy. So all the bank can do is deposit the check and wait. The FTC correctly points out that ththe consumer is responsible for knowing from whom they are receiving funds.

First off a check is nothing but a promise. It is not as good as cash. Trust me, as someone who works for one of the largest credit unions in the US, we do everything we can to avoid accepting fraudulent checks. What high level technology are you referring to? Due to privacy restrictions, we often cannot confirm that a check drawn off another institution is legitimate or that the funds are available. Financial institutions do not disclose that kind of information to outside parties. There is often check fraud where the accounts the checks are drawn off are legitimate but have been altered or forged. A bank can't possibly know if every personal check that is accepted has not been forged or altered. There are several things that we look at to make sure, but ultimately it is up to the consumer as to whether to accept payment as a check. This is the main purpose of placing a hold on the funds until we can be sure. This protects both us and the consumer. You should never accept a check from a untrustworthy source. If you aren't sure, don't immediately spend the money that is made available from the check. A check can return for MULTIPLE reasons. They can be fake, forged, stolen, altered, post dated, stale dated, or canceled by stop payment. If you are buying from someone you don't know, you're better off using a digital source like paypal or cash. No can't rely on everyone else to protect you.

I’m very glad the CFC is taking more and more of a stand (sort of speak) against this type of fraud. These people who partake in these scans are relentless. Example; Something very similar I’ve been going through for more than 4 years now and something that has no logical reason or explanation for its continuation. If you can imagine, I used to enter sweepstakes for about 3-4 years. Just for fun. However I’ve stopped the last couple years, and told them I was giving up and didn’t believe anyone ever wins any of their sweeps. Now even To this day I continue to get letters from different companies who all reference the exact same same amount of unclaimed prize monies on file and registered in my name!l for over 2m dollars. They all show the exact same prices.
There is no fee to enter, but a small discovery (or administration fee) for their report which they’ll send me. It boggles the mind why multiple places would continue wasting their time sending these notices to an individual like me who made it clear years ago that I would not pay them any money. Can anyone else make sense of it???? There are millions of people they could request money from who don’t know what Ive learned. Yet they continue to come to my mailbox.
So beware. It’s all so bazaar !!

Most often these fake checks will not have a bank phone number on them - the scammers don't want you calling the bank the check was forged, er, written on to verify. Also check for spelling on the check. I saw a check once that instead of Portland, it was Portlund.

I received a phone call from the "Social Security Admin." stating there was fraudulent activity associated with my SS number. I called the callback number, 915-208-4911 and right away they wanted my name and SS number. I said do you think I'm an idiot? She said no, but I will call your local police to pick you up. I said something I can't repeat here and hungup. A few weeks ago I received an automated call from the "IRS" saying there was a warrant out for my arrest because I owed them money. I know these are both scams and thought I should tell you. Thank you for the work you are doing.

My mother, now deceased, then in her seventies, had check scammers go after her twice.

Mom kept a close eye on her accounts and noticed a sizable withdrawal for a check. She did not write a check for this amount and went to her bank that cashed the check. This was HER bank. They pulled up the check, and the check had a different address and phone number from her own, and the signature had NO resemblance to her own; but it did have her bank number on the check. The bank cashed it.

Mom was able to prove that it was not she that signed or issued that check, but the bank said they were ONLY libel for a small amount of the funds they had released. Her funds. The bank said she was just out of luck, and suggested that she call the police.

She did so. The police said this was so common there was little hope of catching the people who did this. The same people were busy cashing more checks on Mom's accounts, each with a different address. Mom contacted the police again. The police this time said they even knew the people doing this but could not move against them, or would not. In part because the addresses on the checks were from different counties in SC, and that Mom would have to contact each county's law enforcement and pursue it through each separate county, one by one.

All this from an old woman, half blind and deaf! Though sharp as a tack. (I personally think that these scammers pick people who are old to go after as they are less sure of themselves and less able, with less financial ability to pursue them.)

Plus with laws like the police told my mother they had to follow, this made it impossible for an average person to get justice...from the POLICE, much less the criminal!

Mom had changed her account information after she found out. But too late. With laws that let the banks cash checks without any sort of review of the address, phone or signature....that just plays into crooks hands also. IF the law made banks liable for the full sum they released, then I bet they WOULD verify any new and unusual information on the checks of THEIR OWN PATRONS.

I just got a call from a "company" who owes me a refund which has closed down, To get my refund call 877-957-6417 three times the no. was repeated. I laughed out loud, do they think I am a dummy? Well yes they probably do, but my mom did not raise any dummies. LOL

There is really no such thing as a "fake" check, like there is fake currency. The same paper and ink can be valid or not. The Bank where a check is deposited has no way of knowing if the correct person signed the check or if the account even exists! The big banks won't verify checks anymore. The only thing a bank can do about fraudulent checks being deposited is to know their customer. Then, of course, customers get upset when the bank asks too many questions or places a hold on a deposit.

Received phone call from someone in Kingston Jamaca saying I had won 5.3 million. Wanted me to open a bank account so they could deposit the money and I could pay the taxes from that account and have the rest for me. Figured it was a scam and didn't follow thru. The phone # is 1-876-456-6010. Beware the crooked people!!!

Sometime in October of last year, my mom got a phone call and it said she was approved for a $1,500 payday loan. Well, at the time I was not working and the money sounded really good. So, what happened is that I went along with it and called the guys back and they deposited a fake check into my bank account. Since my mom is co-owner of that bank account she cannot have a bank anywhere else than Chase. So, now I am stuck with Chase until my name is cleared. It sucks, but this was a lessoned learned.

Recentlly receive a check for allowing my vehicle to be used for advetising. I felt funny so I opened a new svaings account and deposted the check on Tuesday, Septmenber 11, 2018, the check still as not cleared and receive a text every day asking if the check has cleared. I am sure it's scam but want to know my next step.

Another way to confirm that a check is bad is to look at the routing number, 9 digit number, and go online, search bank routing numbers, to check the bank listed on the check. It won't match.

I did this with a check that I just found out was fraudulent about 3 months after depositing it. Luckily I didn't feel right about it so the money stayed in the account. When I received the check, I literally checked the routing number against the bank on the check and it matched up. Apparently the check was "altered" somehow to show my name.

I’ve been mailed a check, but knew better. They posed as a Job offer and I suddenly received a check as “prepayment”. I’m worried they have my address. They keep calling me so i blocked the number and I got a text from a different one with a threat “you’re in trouble”. Do i need to get a new phone or anything? It’s wigging me out.

No, don't waste your money. Simply block the number you get any messages from...every time. Eventually they will stop because you are costing them their effort and time with no compensation for them. Some cell companies allow one free number change so u could change your number, but honestly....Simply don't respond and block all msgs you even think might be a scam or related to one....they WILL go away , sooner rather than later, believe me.

I received a cashiers check from Pharmacare for $2950- and drawn on a real bank- in a Priority Mail envelope. But- as you know too good to be true- I called the bank and the company to ask why I would be the benefactor of this money- and they said SCAM! I am not sure how the scammer profits from this- but it's so real looking. BE SMART- if it looks too good to be true and it comes out of the blue- it's a SCAM!!

Where can we file information about a scam names and numbers and such

"If it seems too good to be true"...know that you are responsible for anything you deposit into your account. If something seems questionable, ask your banker or for the advice of your bank's fraud department. Be honest about where you got the check, who you got it from, if it came with a letter, etc. before having it deposited into your account. Unfortunately, they often target individuals who are down on their luck or are so hard pressed for a miracle that they don't appreciate questions from the bank.

This is a deep and winding rabbit hole. Not every counterfeit check is obvious; some are very convincing reproductions using legitimate account/routing information. Banks are often victims of having their cashier's checks and money orders copied by scammers. Same with both personal and business accounts. A "cleared" check does not equal a "good" check because an account holder can come back and report an item as fraudulent after the funds have been released. Forged endorsements have a time frame of 3 years.

Other common parts of check scams including being asked to purchase gift cards and provide the card information to the culprit who sent you the check. I have even seen several cases in the past several months where the scammers ask for the individual's online banking credentials. They then use those credentials to deposit counterfeit checks via mobile deposit, take advantage of P2P money services such as Zelle that your bank my use, use your online banking to remove or change security features on your account, etc.

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