Along with other scams, fraud involving fake checks is on the rise. Like other schemes, the scammer's motive is to collect goods or money from you in an illegitimate way.
Examples of fake check scams
There are many variations of this scam, including:
You're given a counterfeit check from someone who buys something from you.
A scammer pretends to want to buy a high-ticket item that you're trying to sell through the Internet, such as Craigslist. The person buying claims to be using an "agent" or someone else to pick up the item for them; hence, sends you a cashier's check for an amount greater than your item's selling price and instructs you to wire the extra money to the "agent" to cover shipping and other fees.
A scammer pretends to hire you as a mystery shopper, instructed to "assess the quality" of a local money transfer service. You're sent a counterfeit cashier's check with instructions to deposit it and then withdraw its amount in cash to send back, using the money transfer service that you've been "hired" to assess.
A scammer claims to have overpaid you after sending you a check for a sweepstake winning, class action settlement, or another fictitious event. You get instructed to wire the difference to the sender after depositing the check.
How to spot fake check scams
A fake check can be difficult to identify; however, here are some tips to help you determine if you may have received a counterfeit check.
The check is more than you expected.
You received specific instructions on how to deposit the check.
You were asked to send money back using an immediate form of payment such as a money order, gift card, wire transfer, or mobile payment.
You were told to act quickly; make the deposit and return the money.
The person who sent the check keeps asking when you're going to send the money.
What to do if you sent money to a scammer
If you have been a victim of a fake check scam, report it immediately to any of the following agencies:
The Federal Trade Commission at FTC Complaint Assistant
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (if you received the check in the mail).
Your state or local consumer protection agencies. Visit NAAG for a list of state Attorneys General.
For online crimes involving counterfeit checks and money orders, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center
In addition to notifying the financial institution printed on the check, you can inform the website or online service where you encountered the scammer (for example, the online auction website or job posting website), so they can block the scammer from utilizing their services in the future.