How to Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams
Article Posted and Written by: Consumer Federal Trade Commission
In a fake check scam, a person you don’t know asks you to deposit a check— sometimes for several thousand dollars, and usually for more than you are owed — and send some of the money to another person. The scammers always have a good story to explain why you can’t keep all the money. They might say they need you to cover taxes or fees, you’ll need to buy supplies, or something else.
Fake checks come in many forms. They might look like business or personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, or a check delivered electronically. Here’s what you need to know about fake check scams.
Types of Fake Checks Scams
Fake checks are used in many types of scams. Here are some examples:
- Mystery Shopping - Scammers pretend to hire people as mystery shoppers and tell them their first assignment is to evaluate a retailer that sells gift cards, money orders, or a money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram. The shopper gets a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account and wire it to someone else. But once the money is wired, the person on the other end can disappear.
- Personal Assistants - People apply online and get hired as personal assistants. They get a check and are told to use the money to buy gift cards or to buy equipment or supplies for their new client. Once the scammers get the gift card PIN numbers, they use them instantly, leaving the “personal assistant” without the money when the bank figures out the check is bad.
- Claiming Prizes - Sweepstakes “winners” are given checks and told to send money to cover taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees. But that’s not how legitimate sweepstakes work.
- Overpayments - People buying something from you online “accidentally” send a check for too much and ask you to refund the balance.
How To Avoid a Fake Check Scam
- Never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, or wire money to strangers or someone you just met. Many scammers demand that you send money through money transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram, or buy gift cards and send them the PIN numbers. Once you wire money, or give someone the gift card PINs, it is like giving someone cash. It’s almost impossible to get it back.
- Toss offers that ask you to pay for a prize. If it’s free, you shouldn’t have to pay to get it.
- Don’t accept a check for more than the selling price. You can bet it’s a scam.
What CSB Banking Tools are Available to help you Monitor Fraud on your CSB Accounts
Check fraud is just one example of fraud that can happen on your account. We have plenty of great tools and services available to you to help monitor your account wherever and whenever.
- Online Banking and the CSB Simple Banking App: The BEST form of monitoring your account is being an active user of CSB Online Banking and/or the CSB Simple Banking App. We encourage customers to monitor their bank accounts daily. Fraud happens when you least expect it and it's tools like these that can help spot fraud before too much damage is caused to your account. Both of these tools are available for CSB consumer and business customers.
- Account Alerts: Keep tabs on your CSB accounts with helpful email, texts and push notifications. Account Alerts are a fast and easy way to monitor account activity, and it takes only a moment to set up through our Online Banking and CSB Simple Banking App. Alerts are available for consumer and business customers (push notifications unavailable for business).
- Positive Pay for Business: Easily detect counterfeit and fraudulent checks when you submit an electronic file detailing the checks your business issues. When each check is presented for payment, the Positive Pay system electronically compares it to the information in your file. Any discrepancies are flagged and reported through a special email alert and reviewable through your eBusiness Banking service.
- Manage Your Debit Card (consumer only): Secure, monitor and manage access to your CSB Debit Card through the CSB Simple Banking App.