No matter how convincing the scammer is or how legitimate the check looks, people don't send money to others without reason.
Types of Fake Check Scams
Fake checks come in many forms. Business or personal checks, cashier's checks, and money orders are all types that we've seen scammers use.
And the scammers use them in a variety of schemes to get your money. Here are some examples:
1. Mystery or Secret Shopping
A scammer will pretend to hire you as a mystery shopper. Your usual first assignment is to purchase a gift card or money order from a retailer to evaluate them. The scammer will have you send the money order or gift card details to them, taking your money!
2. Personal Assistant
Similar to the Mystery Shopping scam, a scammer will pretend to hire you as a personal assistant. You will then be given a check to buy gift cards or supplies for the fake client.
3. Car Wrap Decals or Bumper Stickers
Scammers will send checks to people interested in making some extra cash with vehicle advertising. They'll ask you to deposit a check they send and send money to car decal installers who don't exist.
4. Claiming Prizes
A scammer will contact you claiming that you won a contest or lottery. You'll be given a check and told to send money to cover taxes, shipping, and fees. You wouldn't have to do this for legitimate sweepstakes.
You decide to sell something online and the buyer "accidentally" sends a check for too much. They'll ask you to refund the balance.
In the 5 examples above, the scammer is asking you to send money back to them. No matter how believable the circumstance, never send money to someone you don't know and have never met. Take it from us, businesses and people won't send you money for no reason! If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Why Do These Scams Work?
They work because the fake checks generally look like real checks. Sometimes they are real checks written on bank accounts from victims of identity theft. When the funds from a fake check are made available in your account, it may have cleared, but it doesn't mean it's a good check. Our team works hard to catch these situations quickly and untangle the mess that comes with them. That's why we want to be proactive and help you spot these scams before you deposit a fake check and send money you don't actually have.
The number one takeaway is don't deposit a check unless you know and trust the person giving it to you.
Best Practices To Avoid Fake Check Scams
- Trash any offer that asks you to pay for a prize. Free is free.
- Never use money from a check to purchase gift cards, money orders, or send money through Western Union or MoneyGram. Once these are in the hands of scammers, it's almost impossible to get your money back.
- Don't accept a check for more than your selling price.
What To Do If You Sent Money to a Scammer
- Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer. If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. When you contact the company, tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Ask them if they can refund your money. If you act quickly enough, the company might be able to get your money back. Here is a list from the FTC of gift cards that scammers often use.
- If you wired money to a scammer, call the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. Ask for the money transfer to be reversed. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask.
- If you paid a scammer with a money order, contact the company that issued the money order right away to see if you can stop payment.