Check Cashing Scams
Various check cashing scams have been around for years. It could start with someone offering to buy something you advertised online, to pay for equipment for a work-at-home job, or as a first installment of a sweepstakes you’ve supposedly won.
Whatever the premise, the person may sound quite believable, and the check presented may look legitimate.
Check scammers find their victims in a variety of ways. They look at newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale. They check postings on online job sites from people looking for employment, or post their own ads for people to contact them. They may also use social media, email, or the phone to randomly contact people.
After the scammer has established trust, they will send you a check as “payment,” then tell you to wire money to them after you’ve deposited the check.
If you are selling something, they may tell you that someone who owes them money will give you a check. It will be for more than the sales price. You are instructed to deposit the check, keep what you are owed, and wire the rest to them. This is a scam.
If you were hired for a work-at-home job, they may tell you the check is for purchasing office equipment. Buy what you need, and wire the rest back to them. This is a scam.
If you supposedly won a sweepstakes, they may tell you that taxes are owed. You are instructed to wire the proceeds of the check back to them to pay for the taxes. Once the taxes are paid, you will receive your prize. This is a scam.
The checks look real, but they are fake. They may even contain account numbers from legitimate business accounts. Once you deposit the check, the bank makes the money available to you for withdrawal within days, but it may take weeks for the check to come back as fake and you are left owing the money to the bank.
New versions of these scams involving mobile deposit are on the rise. The scammer may try to convince you to provide them with your bank account information, including your online banking username and password so they can use the mobile deposit feature of your mobile banking application to deposit the check into your account. Once they have access to your online banking, they may use features like online bill pay or person-to-person (P2P) transfer to wipe your accounts clean.
Avoid falling prey to these scams by following these tips:
- Never give out your personal information to strangers. This includes your bank account number, debit/credit card number, PIN number, and any online banking or mobile banking login information.
- If you are selling something, it is safer to accept cash, credit card, or PayPal. If you must accept a check, only except a cashier’s check for the exact amount. Remember, it may take a couple of weeks for the check to fully clear, even though the funds are made available to you within a couple of days.
- If someone offers you money for your personal information, remember it is a scam.
- If you apply for a work-at-home or secret shopper job and you are instructed to wire money back to them, remember, it is a scam.
- If you supposedly win a lottery or sweepstakes and you are instructed to wire money back to them, remember it is a scam.
- If you suspect a check is fraudulent, don’t deposit it. Take it to your bank and talk to a banker about the situation involving how you received the check.
- Check your online bank statements regularly. If you see something unfamiliar, contact your bank immediately.
There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire a portion of the money back to them. If you believe you have been the victim of a check scammer, contact your local police and notify your bank as soon as possible.
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