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Real or Fake? Don't Fall for Check Scams


By: Fidelity Bank

Real or Fake? Don't Fall for Check Scams

Did you get a check in the mail that you weren’t expecting or an offer that seems too good to be true? Watch out – it could be a scam.

Scammers want to trick you into depositing fake checks and sending them real money. Don’t do it. Learn how check scams operate and how to protect yourself.


How Fake Check Scams Work

Someone you don’t know asks you to deposit a check, sometimes for a large amount, and then asks you to send some of the funds back to them, or someone else, in the form of cash, a money order, gift cards, or a wire transfer. They might have a good story about why you can’t keep all the money, but the ending is always the same: the check will bounce, and you’ll be stuck covering the money you sent. You’ve just fallen for a fake check scam.

Check scams come in many forms, but they have one thing in common: These bogus checks appear official, with security features and a real financial institution’s name. They might look like business checks, personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, or electronic checks. Once you try to deposit such a check, you’ll find that it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.


Here are common fake check scams to look out for.

  1. Secret Shopper Scam

Some scammers pretend to hire people as secret shoppers or personal assistants. The “new hire” will be given a check and asked to buy gift cards for their supposed employer.


  1. “Accidental” Overpayment Scam

Other scammers use online shopping or classified ad sites to find their victims. They’ll pretend to buy an item or rent an apartment, and then “accidentally” send a check for too much money – asking you to refund the difference.


  1. Car Wrap Scam

One very active con trick is the car wrap scam. Car owners are told they can make great money by putting advertisements for popular brands on their vehicles. They’re given checks and told to forward some of that money to decal installers, who don’t exist.


  1. Fake Prizes Scam

In this fraud scheme, you’ll receive notice that you have won money or a prize. You are given a check to trick you into thinking the winnings are real. They will tell you to send money right away to cover bogus taxes or fees. When you try to deposit the check (typically after you have sent money), it bounces.


  1. Sneaky Signup Scam

In this scam, you might receive a check in the mail for a small amount, like two dollars. Unlike other scams, this check will be genuine, but by endorsing and depositing it, you’ll be signing up for a membership you didn’t want, or giving your personal information to the criminals, which they can use for identity theft.


How to Protect Yourself

Here are some steps you can take to stay safe from fake check scams:

  • Never expect that check funds will cover your expense for wiring money or purchasing gift cards.
  • Never accept a check for an amount that’s more than you’re owed.
  • Throw away offers that ask you to pay money to get a prize – especially for a drawing you never entered.
  • Don’t cash checks from parties you’re not doing business with.
  • Be aware that just because a check has cleared doesn’t mean it’s real – the funds could be deducted once the bank discovers it’s fake.


What to Do If You’ve Been the Victim of a Scam

If you believe you’ve mistakenly paid a scammer as part of a fake check scam, here’s what to do:

  • Immediately contact your bank or credit union or the money transfer company used to wire funds.
  • If you paid a scammer with a gift card, contact the issuing company right away.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at, U.S. Postal Inspection Service at, or your state attorney general at


It All Adds Up to Trouble

In one recent year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 27,000 reports of fake check scams totaling more than $28 million.

To avoid these scams, don’t rely on money from a check – unless you know who you’re dealing with. To learn more about protecting your account, talk to a Fidelity Banker today.