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Three steps to avoid fake check scams

Fake check scams are on the rise — and there are several variations of this type of check fraud.

Typically, scammers ask you to deposit or cash a counterfeit check and quickly send them back a portion of the money.

Important: It can take weeks to spot a fake check after it’s been deposited. Be careful because you may be responsible for the full amount of the check. And if you transfer or send money to a check scammer, we may not be able to recover those funds.

Here are three steps that can help you avoid fake check scams.

Step 1: Know the common fake check scams.

The key to these scams is that you’re asked to act quickly, deposit a fake check, and send back a portion of the funds before your bank can spot the fraud.

Here are examples:

Overpayment Scam: Someone sends you a fraudulent check for a product or service, but the amount is higher than the price you agreed upon. You’re asked to return the “overpayment.”

Employment Scam: Someone posing as an employer who wants to hire you sends a fake check as an advance payment or to cover expenses. You’re asked to send back the “extra money.”

Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam: Scammers say you’ve won prize money. They send a fake check and ask for a partial payment in return, claiming it's for processing fees, taxes, or another phony reason.

If you receive a check related to a deal that seems too good to be true, trust your instincts.

Be skeptical, don’t deposit the check, and verify that it’s real before taking any action.

Step 2: Look for the fake check warning signs.

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

  • Is the check for more than you expected?
  • Are you being pressured to quickly make the deposit and return some of the money?
  • Did you receive unusual instructions on how to deposit the check?
  • Were you asked to send money back using an immediate form of payment such as a money order, gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency?
  • Were you asked to give someone cash or an immediate payment through Zelle® or other payment apps?
  • Are you being threatened with law enforcement action?

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

Step 3: When in doubt, stop and let us help you.

Fake check scams can be complex.

If you are ever unsure about a check you’ve received, we are here to help.

Bring the check to your local Wells Fargo branch and let us assist you.

If you’ve already deposited a suspicious check and suspect you are the victim of fraud, contact us right away.