What you need to know about counterfeit/fake check scams:

  • The lottery angle is a trick to get you to wire money to someone you don’t know. If you were to deposit the check and wire the money, your bank would soon learn that the check was a fake. This is just one example of a counterfeit check scam that could leave you with a financial loss.
  • Scammers use quality printers and scanners to make cashier checks, watermarks and bank information authentic. Phony checks come in many forms, from cashier’s checks and money orders to corporate and personal checks.
  • Check overpayment scams target consumers through classified ads or online auction sites (i.e. Craig’s List, eBay). Scammers pass off fake cashier’s checks, corporate checks, or personal checks. Here is how it works:
    • Scam artists reply to your ad posting, offer to pay with a check, and then want to write the check for more than the purchase price. He/she asks you to wire back the difference but when the check bounces, you are liable for the entire amount.
    • Secret shopper scammers hire you to be a secret shopper to evaluate a money transfer service. You get a check, asked to deposit it in your account, and withdraw the cash. Then you are asked to transfer to a person in a foreign city. When funds are sent through wire transfer, scammers can pick up the money anywhere without being identified.
    • Just because funds are available on a check you’ve deposited doesn’t mean the check is good. It’s best not to rely on money from any type of check (cashier’s, business or personal check, or money order) unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with or, better yet – until the bank confirms that the check has cleared.

How to protect yourself against counterfeit, fake check scams:

  • Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries.
  • Never wire money to strangers.
  • If you’re selling a product, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, walk away.
  • If the buyer insists on using an escrow or online payment service you’ve never heard of, check it out. Visit its website, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. Call the customer service line. To learn more about escrow and online payment systems, visit onguardonline.gov
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn from a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid.
  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately.
  • Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.

What to do if you have been targeted by a counterfeit, fake check scam:

If you have been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, report it to the following agencies:

The Federal Trade Commission

Visit ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Visit postalinspectors.uspis.gov or call your post office. The number is in the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory.

Your state or local consumer protection agencies

Visit www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General offices.


The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-382-4357; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.