Fake check scams take many forms – everything from mystery shopper jobs to payment for selling things online. The best advice we can give is to never, ever deposit a check into your bank account from someone you don’t know. Just in case though, here are a few details on how fake check scams work and what you can do to protect yourself.
The fake check scam
With a fake check scam, a person you don’t know (or don’t know well) asks you to deposit a check, usually for more than what you are owed. You are asked to send the extra amount back by wire, cash, or gift card. There’s always a good story for the overpayment such as they are out of the country, you won a prize and the overage covers taxes or fees, or you sold an item to a buyer and they “accidentally” overpaid.
By the time the bank discovers the check is fraudulent, the scammer already has the money (or goods) you sent and you’re left owing the amount of the check back to the bank with no way of contacting the fake check scammer.
How to protect yourself
The best form of protection against fake check scams is to never deposit a check from someone you don’t know. If you are selling an item online, ask that the money be sent to you though an online money transfer system, such as Paypal or Venmo, where you only have to provide your email or cell phone number to the sender (never provide your bank account information). If you must accept a check, never accept one for more than your selling price. And if you are unsure if the check is real, stop by your local branch so we can help verify it for you.
Fake check fraud affects tens of thousands of victims every year according to the FTC and it’s increasing every day. Protect yourself, your friends and your family by staying alert and sharing this information.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fake check fraud, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and contact your local police department. You’ll want to call us immediately at (800) 649-0193 so we can help to protect your bank accounts, too.