Check & Mail Scams
How to spot a scam:
Have you recently received a check and been asked to deposit it in order to return some of the funds? Maybe it’s from a lottery, online job, or friend you met in a chat room? There are many variations of the counterfeit check scam but all involve depositing what you believe to be a legitimate check and then forwarding a portion of the funds to another individual.
Some of these checks have included what appear to be cashier’s checks drawn on real banks, US Postal money orders, Traveler’s checks, and Visa or American Express checks.
Please be aware that it could take 3–10 business days for the check to clear the paying bank and that you are ultimately responsible for any checks you deposit.
Common Scams: Online purchases, checks in the mail, lotteries
- You are selling something online, but the buyer either mistakenly sends you too much money or they send you extra money to pay their “shipping agent.”
- You have won a foreign lottery and you must pre-pay some taxes. You should be aware that it is against federal law to advertise or pay out a non-US lottery through the US mail. If you don’t have a ticket stub, you probably didn’t enter a lottery.
- You receive an online job offer to cash US checks for companies overseas so they can avoid currency transfer fees.
- You receive an online job offer to act as a mystery shopper in order to comment on the quality of a product or service.
- You have been chatting with someone online who needs your help to move to the US or needs help negotiating a check for a sick relative overseas.
- You are looking for a roommate and someone sends a check to cover the cost of rent or for you to purchase items for them. They unexpectedly have an emergency that then prevents them from moving and asks that you return the funds.
In all these cases, once you deposit the check, you are requested to return funds via Western Union, wire, or Moneygram. You should never return funds without calling the bank the check is drawn on to ensure it has cleared the paying bank (not the bank it was deposited with).