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How to Prevent Fake Check Scams

How to Prevent Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams are occurring more than ever, and scammers are becoming increasingly clever with their tactics. Here's how a fake check scam typically works.

Someone you don't know sends you a check. It could be from any company. The person will ask you to deposit the check and send some of the money to them or another person in return. The scammer always has a reason to explain why you received the check and why you cannot keep all the money. If you deposit a fake check and send money to the scammer, you will be responsible for that money, which can sometimes amount to thousands of dollars!

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 scammers use. 

And the scammers use them in various schemes to get your money. Here are some examples:

1. Mystery or Secret Shopping
A scammer hires 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 them the money order or gift card details while taking your money! 

2. Personal Assistant

Like the Mystery Shopping scam, a scammer will pretend to hire you as a personal assistant. You will then receive 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 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 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. 

5. Overpayments
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 these five examples, scammers ask you to send them back the money. 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 will not send money to you 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 legitimate. Sometimes the checks are real, written on bank accounts from victims of identity theft. When the funds from a fake check post to an account, the check may have cleared; however, it doesn't mean it's a trustworthy transaction. The First Reliance team works hard to catch these situations quickly and untangle the mess that comes with them. We ask our customers to be proactive and help spot these scams before depositing a fake check and sending money you do not 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 funds 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, contact the company that issued the card immediately, and tell them about the scam. Ask if they can refund your money. If you act quickly, the company may be able to get your money back. Here is an FTC list of gift cards scammers often use.
  • If you wired money to a scammer, immediately call the money transfer company 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.

First Reliance Bank is Here for You

Rest assured that an entire team is working behind the scenes to protect you. At First Reliance Bank, where "Banking As Unique As You Are," is always top of mind, we are here to help guide your banking decisions. If you have questions or concerns, call 888.543.5510 or email

Do us a favor and tell your friends about us so we can help them be as smart about their money as you are.


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