Types of Fake Check Scams
Scammers pretend to hire you as a mystery shopper. They tell you that your first assignment is to evaluate a retailer that sells gift cards, money orders, or a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. You get a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account and wire some of the money to someone else. But once you do, the money is gone and the so-called “employer” can disappear, too.
You apply online and think you’re getting hired as a personal assistant. You get a check and are told to use the money to buy gift cards and send the PIN numbers to your “boss.” But that’s a scammer, and once they get the gift card PINs, they use them instantly. That leaves you without the money when the bank figures out the check was fake.
Car wrap decals
You respond to an offer for car wrap advertising. The company tells you to deposit a check and then send money to decal installers. But it’s a scam, the installers aren’t real, and now your money is gone.
A sweepstakes says you’ve won and gives you a check. They tell you to send them money to cover taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees. But that’s not how legitimate sweepstakes work — and you’ll be out any money you send.
People buying something from you online, “accidentally” send a check for too much, and ask you to refund the balance. But that’s a scam.
Why Do These Scams Work?
These scams work because fake checks generally look just like real checks, even to bank employees. They are often printed with the names and addresses of legitimate financial institutions. They may even be real checks written on bank accounts that belong to someone whose identity has been stolen. It can take weeks for a bank to figure out that the check is a fake.
Fake Checks and Your Bank
By law, banks have to make deposited funds available quickly, usually within two days. When the funds are made available in your account, the bank may say the check has “cleared,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a good check. Fake checks can take weeks to be discovered and untangled. By that time, the scammer has any money you sent, and you’re stuck paying the money back to the bank.
Your best bet: Don’t rely on money from a check unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with.
How To Avoid a Fake Check Scams
- Never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, cryptocurrency, or to wire money to anyone who asks you to. Many scammers demand that you buy gift cards and send them the PIN numbers, buy cryptocurrency and transfer it to them, or send money through wire transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram. Once you do, it’s like you’ve given them cash. It’s almost impossible to get it back.
- Toss offers that ask you to pay for a prize. If it’s free, you shouldn’t have to pay to get it. Only scammers will ask you to pay to collect a “free” prize.
- Don’t accept a check for more than the selling price. You can bet it’s a scam.