Do Not Be A Victim of a Check Scam
Has someone asked you to deposit checks for them into your account and then wire them the money minus your commission?
Have you been informed you are due a sizeable inheritance due to the recent death of a distant relative, but you need to pay certain legal fees to obtain the money?
Has a stranger offered to pay you for something with a check or money order for more than the purchase price?
Have you received lottery winnings that require you to pay processing fees?
Each year, check deposit scams defraud thousands of people in the U.S. Even the most skeptical consumer can be deceived. Find out how you can protect yourself and your family.
There has been an alarming increase in check scams, with new variations cropping up to trick discerning consumers. It could start with someone offering to buy something you advertised, such as a car, boat or even pedigree dogs. They may offer to pay you to do work at home or negotiate with you on an apartment rental. Or you may have received a check claiming it's part of lottery money that has been deposited in a bank in your name. The possible scenarios are endless.
The key ingredient is that someone offers to send you a check, cashiers check or money order that is in excess of the amount you require. There is always an overpayment. Then they ask you to wire transfer some or all of the money out of your account or use a money transfer service such as Western Union®.
The reason for the inflated-value check will vary from one check scam attempt to another. If it's part of a work-at-home scheme, they may claim that you'll be processing checks from customers by depositing the checks and then wiring them the money minus your "pay." Maybe you have an apartment or house to rent. The individual is going to overpay you for the first month's rent, and ask to send the balance to the movers. Or if you receive a check as part of a fake lottery, they claim the total prize cannot be withdrawn unless a large cash deposit is made to "release" the money. Whatever the story, the person may sound quite believable.
Individuals using fake check scams usually look for victims by scanning newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale. They check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. They call or send thousands of emails or faxes to people randomly, hoping someone will respond. They win people's confidence by presenting checks that look like they're from legitimate individual or business accounts.
Your bank may learn, after you withdraw or wire the money from your account, that the check you were given was fraudulent. At this time the check will be returned to the bank unpaid and the full amount of the check will be deducted from your account. Because bank customers are generally responsible for the checks they deposit, the victims of these scams are left to repay the bank the money they withdrew against the bad check.
The scam usually works because under federal law, banks make the funds you deposit available quickly – usually within one to five days, depending on the type of check. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it's a cashier's check. It can take weeks for the forgery to be discovered and the check to be returned.
Don't get involved in any sale where the buyer wants you to accept a check for an inflated amount and refund the overage. There are usually no legitimate reasons for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back.
- If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier's check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or a bank that has a branch in your area.
- Ignore requests to pay certain "fees" to process lottery winnings or to increase your chances of winning.
- Whatever the set-up, the bottom line is if someone you don't know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire money back, it's probably a scam.
Don't deposit it – report it! If you believe you have been the victim of or are currently being solicited by a fraudster, contact your local police department immediately.
If you believe you have recently deposited a fraudulent check or other negotiable item, please Contact BMO Harris Bank at 1-888-340-2265.
Western Union® is a trademark owned by The Western Union Company, registered in the United States and many foreign countries