Most Common Check Scams

Check scamming is a timeless and pervasive crime that does not discriminate in victim selection. Consumers of all ages and walks of life can fall prey to these cons and often times, there is little law enforcement can do when the victim realizes he/she has been duped. Scammers are well connected and experts in their craft but there is a way to avoid falling into their trap. The best defense is a good offense. Recognizing the common traits of these scams can help save you or a loved one from losing your hard earned cash.

  1. Mystery Shopper or Work-at Home Scams: This type of scam typically targets younger consumers between the ages of 18-30. When you are “hired”, the company sends you a check to cover expenses and your pay. You are instructed to deposit the check into your bank account, subtract your fees, and send the rest back.
  2. Lottery Scams: Lottery scams tend to favor those over the age of 66. You receive a letter stating you have won a lottery (usually international) and a check is included. You may be instructed to send back a portion of the “winnings” included with the letter or you may be asked to send money in order to claim your winnings.
  3. Overpayment Scams: In this type of scam the victim is selling something online (Craigslist anyone?). You are contacted by someone who just has to have your treadmill machine and wants to send you more money than what you are asking so you don’t sell it to anyone else. Once you have deposited the check, just send back the extra, no worries… WRONG!

In each of these scams you are instructed to deposit or cash a check and send money back, most often via wire transfer. Unfortunately, once the check has been processed it is returned to your bank as fraudulent and you wind up holding the bag. Banks are required to make funds available from checks within a certain number of days, so even if a hold is placed on the funds, you may still have used the money before the check is returned.

check scammingBanks are becoming more and more aware of these types of scams and work hard to educate their customers as well. When you cash or deposit a check, you may notice your banker asking you questions about why you received the check and who sent it to you. Likewise, when you request a wire transfer, you may be asked questions pertaining to why you are sending the funds and to whom. These questions may seem invasive but are in an effort to protect consumers from fraud. Scammers are wising up to this and often direct their victims to send money via Western Union or by purchasing pre-paid debit cards in order to avoid all of those pesky questions.

Although these scams are quite common and have many other variations, they are easy to avoid. Never send money or accept a check from someone you don’t know. Ask yourself if this seems too good to be true. If so, it’s most likely a scam and once you send money, it’s gone for good.