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How To Spot A Fake Check Scam


How To Spot A Fake Check Scam

The National Consumers League reports that fake check scams now rank as one of the most common internet fraud scams. Fake check scams are clever ploys designed to steal money. You can avoid becoming victim by recognizing how the scam works and understanding your responsibility for the check you deposit into your account. If someone you don't know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, be careful. That is a sign of a scam.

How do fake check scams work?

There are many variations of these scams, but they usually start with someone offering to:

  1. buy something you advertised
  2. pay you to work at home
  3. give you an "advance" on a sweep stake you've won
  4. give you the first payment on the millions you'll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping

How do scammers get my money?

The amount of the check or money order you receive may be more than you are owed, so you're instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer or someone else. In other cases, you may be told to wire some of the money back to pay a fee to claim your "winnings". Be careful – whatever the setup, the result is the same – after you've wired the money, you find out that the check or money order was fraudulent.

Can your credit union or bank tell if the check or money order is good or not when I deposit it?

These fakes look so real it is difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. They often look like they are from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has altered the checks without the business’s knowledge.

Note: Under federal law, we must make the funds you deposit available usually within one to five days. But just because you can withdraw the funds does not mean the check is good. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered. If you have withdrawn the funds and the check or money order is returned, you, as the presenter, are responsible for those funds.

If you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you could be involved in a fraud or about to be scammed!

  • Is the check from an item you sold on the internet?
  • Is the amount of the check more than the item's selling price?
  • Did you receive the check via an overnight delivery service?
  • Is the check drawn on a business or individual account that is different from the person buying your item or product?
  • Have you been informed that you were the winner of a lottery that you did not enter?
  • Have you been instructed to wire, send or ship money, as soon as possible, to a large U.S. city or to another country, such as Canada, England or Nigeria?
  • Are you receiving pay or a commission for facilitating money transfers through your account?
  • Did you respond to an email requesting you to confirm, update or provide your account information?

If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don't deposit it – report it. Contact MembersAlliance Credit Union immediately at 815-226-2260 and the National Fraud Information Center at .

For more information on recent scams, view our Fraud and Scams blog articles.