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Fake check scams

Fake check scams are on the rise and customers are reporting many variations. The checks are fake but they look real as if they're from legitimate businesses. Some may be an overpayment for something you sold online, or as "prize" money for a lottery or sweepstakes.

Regardless of the situation, the scammer’s goal is always the same – to convince you to deposit the fraudulent check and then send real money back to the scammer.

Here are some real examples of fake check scams reported by our customers:

Fake job scams

"I got an email asking if I would advertise a company by putting a sticker with their logo [all over] my car.  They sent me a $3500 check and said [to keep a portion and] the extra money in the check was to pay for the person who was going to wrap my car."

"I got a job to be a secret shopper and they sent me a check for $4950. After I deposited the check, I was supposed to buy gift cards, scratch off the back of the card [to reveal the PIN], and text pictures of the cards back to the company to prove that I had bought the cards. I was also supposed to buy a money order from a different bank and send them a picture."

Online sales scam

"I was selling my car online and I got a cashier’s check from Wells Fargo for more than the asking price. The buyer said the extra money was to pay the person who was going to pick up the car. This didn’t seem right, so I went to the bank to see if the check was real."

Lottery or prize scam

"I got this random check in the mail for winning a lottery, even though I don’t play. The letter that came with it said that I should call the ‘claims agent’ for instructions on what to do with the check. I didn’t feel right about it, so I brought the check into the bank."

How to help protect yourself from fake check scams

If you're suspicious about a check you received, ask yourself:

  • Is the check for more than you expected?
  • Did you receive specific instructions on how to deposit the check?
  • Are you asked to send money back using an immediate form of payment such as, a money order, gift card, wire transfer, a payment app like Zelle®, or mobile payment?
  • Are you pressured to act quickly to make the deposit and return the money right away? Are you being threatened with law enforcement action?
  • Does the person who sent the check keep asking when you’re going to send the money? Are they badgering you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, don’t deposit the check.

Be aware: It can take weeks for a bank to confirm a bad check after it’s deposited and you may be out the amount of the check plus any money sent to the scammer. If you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there's often little we can do to help you get your money back.

Dig deeper into this topic and learn more about scams and cyber threats.