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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


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.

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 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?

Awesome information. Thank you for sharing!!


You can forward unwanted or deceptive messages to the FTC at

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 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.

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 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.

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’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!!

I keep get things that I won a contest 50,000 up to 500,000 but I have to pay a fee

Can't you just take the check to Wal-Mart and cash it?

I need to report a scam , I have already called the bank from which the check was writtin on , no such company , that is a fraud check .
for car wraps , have check did not cash it. have all of the text message and phone numbers of person , for car wrapping , you make $500.00 a week , but you also have to pay the installer , and were including his portion as well , so deposit this check send me picture of full depost slip, then I will aontact the detailer to come wrap your car , for Smirnoff vodka .

Going on the fourth time since summer. I need a remote job due to disability. I signed up with legitimate job search companies. I received job offers, they send me a check to cover needed supplies. They try to pressure me to deposit the check immediately. I inform them, as soon as I verify the check is valid, I'll be happy to go to work. They typically feign being insulted. How dare I question. Just deposit the check. I email or call the bank the funds are to be drawn from. In less than a minute, the bank knows it's fake. I used to turn this over to FBI Fraud. Privately informed not much they can do,but, keep bringing them evidence. I do enjoy making the crooks uncomfortable. Just knowing they missed what they thought would be an easy mark, almost makes the annoyance worth it. So, if anyone sends you a check, tell them you're going to have it verified.

Thanks guys for these great posts, very informative. Just got an email about a job that I never applied for, explaining how I was the best candidate to print and mail out payroll checks from home. The email went on to explain in this elaborate soliloquy how if I buy a printer n checks they would reimburse me right away. They also wanted all my information and cell phone number. This is classic check scam, and I think if you send the information they are actually selling and sharing ur name with other scammers. That's how they keep the scamming circle going with fake jobs, fake checks and owing IRS bull crap. I intend on emailing back and asking how they figure I'm right for the job if they don't even know my last name, and supposedly I applied for a job at their company, nope sorry..

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