Watch out for fake checks!
It's relatively easy to make a counterfeit check look real – good enough to slip past a bank teller. That's why fake checks are used to commit so many types of scams these days.
Con artists send their bogus checks to people who want be a mystery shopper or who apply for a work-at-home job. They also use counterfeit checks to buy things for sale in classified ads.
While the storyline varies, fake check scams all follow the same pattern. The victim is told to deposit that check and send a portion of the money to someone else – usually by wire transfer.
"They withdraw all or part of that balance from the checking account, typically in cash, and then they send that cash to the scammer or one of the scammers' accomplices,” said John Breyault who runs the National Consumers League’s fraud.org website. "When the check comes back as a fake, it’s the consumer who is left on the hook for the negative balance in their account. And unfortunately, the first inkling that many people have that they've been defrauded is a big negative balance."
Earlier this year, the Better Business Bureau released a list of the Top 10 Most Risky Scams. Fake check scams came in at number two, just behind home improvement scams. While the typical loss to a scam that’s reported to the BBB is about $275, with fake check scams the median loss is almost $1,500.
Fraud experts tell me they can't think of any legitimate business transaction where someone would send you a check, ask you to deposit it and wire back some of the money. So don't do it.