Counterfeit Check Scams
Counterfeit check scams can start with a letter, a call from a telemarketer or a response to something you’ve posted online, like a resume or an item for sale. Victims can lose tens of thousands of dollars to counterfeit check scams.
How the Scam Works:
In the mail or over the phone:
You get an announcement or call that you’ve won a prize. The scammers send you a check to cover taxes and fees you have to pay before you can get your prize. You’re told to deposit the very real looking check into your bank account and then wire the money back. After you send the money, the check turns out to be a fake—but the scammer already has your money.
Over the Internet:
Scammers respond to something you’ve posted for sale on a legitimate Web site such as eBay or Craig’s List. The scammer claims to want to buy the item and sends you a check. The check is for more than the purchase price and you’re asked to wire back the extra money. You cash the check and wire the funds from your bank account, only to find out later that the check was fake.
With a help wanted ad:
You see an ad or get an email promising you well-paid work as a secret or mystery shopper. If you respond, you’ll get a check to deposit and instructions to wire the money back as a way to evaluate the wire service company. A related scheme claims to offer work as a payment processor for an overseas company. These jobs are not real, and neither are the checks the scammers send you.
Counterfeit Checks Look Very Real
While similar scams have been around for years, advances in printing technology mean that crooks can now make very convincing counterfeit checks. Even banks have a hard time spotting these checks as fakes because scammers often use the name and account number of a real company. It can take weeks for the check to be discovered as a fraud.
How to Spot a Counterfeit Check
- You’ve been told that you’ve won a lottery called “El Mundo,” “El Gordo” or from a foreign country such as Canada, Costa Rica or Australia.
- You’re told to wire, send, or ship money immediately to a large U.S. city or abroad, especially to England, Canada, Nigeria, Costa Rica or Jamaica.
- You’ve posted an item for sale online and receive a check for more than your asking price.
- You’re told that you can receive a commission for transferring money through your account.
- You get an email or telephone request to confirm, update or provide your personal account information.
We Can Help
If you receive what looks like a counterfeit check or get a call or letter claiming that you’ve won a lottery, let us know by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll free within North Carolina.
For more about dodging scammers, watch Dialing for Dollars, an excerpt from our consumer protection video Standing Up, Fighting Back.