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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.

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!!

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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!!!

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.

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