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How to Spot a Fake Check Scam

3 Signs to look for:

In the midst of the pandemic and government stimulus payments, fake check scams are on the rise. The method may vary, but the scammer’s goal is always the same — to get you to deposit a counterfeit check into your bank account, and then return a portion of the money to them right away. To help you avoid a scam, there are a few things you can look for.

If you spot any of these warning signs, don’t deposit the check:

1.) A prospective buyer sends you a check for more than your asking price “by mistake” and wants the overage back.

2.) You receive your first check for a new work-from-home job, and the “employer” asks you to send some money back right away for supplies.

3.) You receive a check for sweepstakes winnings that can only be claimed by sending some money back to cover taxes.

As the pandemic continues, customer reports of fake check scams are on the rise. Some thought they received a payment for a new job, others received an overpayment for something they sold online, and still others received prize money in the mail for a lottery or sweepstakes they had supposedly won.

Regardless of the situation, the scammer’s goal is always the same – to convince you to deposit the fraudulent check and then send some of the money back.

Here are some real examples of scams reported by our customers:

"I got an email asking if I would advertise a company by putting a sticker with their logo [all over] my car. They sent me a $3500 check and said [to keep a portion and] the extra money in the check was to pay for the person who was going to wrap my car."

"I got a job to be a secret shopper and they sent me a check for $4950. After I deposited the check, I was supposed to buy gift cards, scratch off the back of the card [to reveal the PIN], and text pictures of the cards back to the company to prove that I had bought the cards. I was also supposed to buy a money order from a different bank and send them a picture."

"I was selling my car online and I got a cashier’s check from Wells Fargo for more than the asking price. The buyer said the extra money was to pay the person who was going to pick up the car. This didn’t seem right, so I went to the bank to see if the check was real."

"I got this random check in the mail for winning a lottery, even though I don’t play. The letter that came with it said that I should call the ‘claims agent’ for instructions on what to do with the check. I didn’t feel right about it, so I brought the check into the bank."

How to help protect yourself

If you're suspicious about a check you received, ask yourself:

  • Is the check for more than you expected?

  • Did you receive specific instructions on how to deposit the check?

  • Are you asked to send money back using an immediate form of payment such as, a money order, gift card, wire transfer, or mobile payment?

  • Are you directed to act quickly to make the deposit and return the money?

  • Does the person who sent the check keep asking when you’re going to send the money?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, don’t deposit the check.

Be aware: It can take weeks for a bank to confirm a bad check once it’s deposited and you may be out the amount of the check and any money sent to the scammer.

Article Submitted by Mary Coupland, info received from Wells Fargo.

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