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If someone you don’t know sends you a check and asks for money back, that’s a scam.

Fake checks drive many types of scams — like those involving phony job and income opportunities, online classified ad sales, and others. 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 back, often by wire transfers or gift cards, to them or another person. The scammers always have a good story to explain the overpayment. They might say they’re stuck out of the country, they need you to cover taxes or fees, you’ll need to buy supplies, or something else.

Money Wiring Scams 

By law, banks have to make deposited funds available quickly — you’ll usually see the money in your account within a day or two. But it may take weeks for your bank to learn the check was bad. By that time, the scammer has the money you sent, and you’re stuck paying the bank back.

Over the last several years, the number of fake check scams reported to the FTC has steadily increased, and so have the dollars lost. In its most recent Data Spotlight, Don’t bank on a “cleared” check, the FTC reports that consumers lost more than $28 million to fake check scams in 2019 alone. The median loss reported was $1,988. That’s more than six times the median loss on all frauds tracked by the FTC. What’s more, reports about fake check scams are up by about 65% over 2015 levels. The FTC found that younger people are hit especially hard. In 2019, people in their twenties were more than twice as likely as people 30 and older to report losing money to a fake check scam.

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Fake Check Scams Infographic

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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February 10, 2020
Can my bank make me responsible for the money lost? I am on Social Security that does not even cover my utility bills in rent. No I’m having to pay back $2500 to my bank.
FTC Staff
February 13, 2020

In reply to by JN211923

You are responsible for the checks you deposit and cash. Scammers know that, by law, banks have to make the funds you deposit available quickly, usually within a few days. That's why they urge you to deposit the check and send them money immediately, before the bank learns the check is bad. 

When the bank finds out the check is bad, the bank tells you to repay the money you took. You can talk with people at the bank about the scam. Show them any letters or messages you got from the scammer. Explain that you are a victim of a scam. You can explain your finances and ask them to work with you on a solution.

February 10, 2020
I was recently sent a cashier's check in the amount of 2800.00. I was instructed to deposit it, then go to Wal-Mart and act like a secret shopper. In return, they wanted me to purchase a $50 item 6 Wal-Mart gift cards. I was instructed to take pictures of the gift cards and send to them showing I completed my assignment. ( I have done nothing, I am not going to deposit their check. Thought I'd pass the story on.)
March 17, 2020

In reply to by Chell KS

Me too but my check was for 1900 from Marketforce. Are they scammers?
February 25, 2020

In reply to by Inkster

I also Just received a check in the mail as well as my husband, for $2600. It had the name of A corrective eye company in Ohio posted on the address label. We called them to warn them. My husband is on his way to the police station with all of the evidence now. If we dont destroy it maybe they can get a lead off of it, and stop some of these scams.
Just me
March 02, 2020

In reply to by Inkster

I also received a "Cashiers Check" with a letter saying to go to walmart and get gift cards etc. comes from David Archibald in Goldsboro NC , the check is from Comerica Bank...SCAM all the way
Don't use your…
February 10, 2020
How about mentioning USPS money orders.I have 3 of them and I knew they were a scam and I never cashed them but still have them.
February 10, 2020
Years ago, received a check from an out of state company for $1,000. Did not cash it, notified the owner of the business which was listed on the check about the deception. He was grateful as his business would be impacted with the fraud check.
Dick on da cape
February 10, 2020
Two years ago I was involved in an ?obvious? check scam scheme resulting from a 'Craigs List' furniture offering I had posted. I say "obvious" because the check I ultimately received was excellent in terms of visual authenticity; drawn on a major US accounting firm. More realistic was the fact that it had arrived as an overnight Fed-ex delivery. The ultimate tip-off for me was that a corporate check was paying for a personal purchase; also the emails originated from a non-US source. I did take some satisfaction in that I had at least cost them some time and Fed-Ex mailing expense. Come to find out that these guys fraudulently used a Texas company's Fed-EX account and charged them the shipping cost. These people are professional, brilliant and organized. And I sense that they have gotten even better at it!
Mississippi Tr…
February 10, 2020
Interesting that I was sent a text message from an unknown number. It explained that I had been selected to participate as a secret shopper. I was to watch for an expedited mail parcel which would include instructions for my initial assignment. Well, I received the priority package today. It included a Official Check drawn on Spire Credit Union in the amount of $2,940. I’m to deposit it into my personal account, withdraw $540 as my salary. Next I’m to go get o the nearest Walmart to purchase 6 $400 Kroger gift cards. Then I need to complete some survey questions and email them to someone entirely different than the individual who has contacted me. Now I’m to keep the gift cards in a safe place so that I can use them on my next shopping assignment. Wow!!
February 10, 2020
This is the exact description of what happened to my brother, except the amount was for $1100 and unfortunately my brother followed through with the scammer's request when the scammer posed as his father-in-law describing a financial emergency. So of course my brother was out the $1100. This is a scam!! Don't fall for it.
February 11, 2020
Yes I received a check for 2100.00 They wanted me to cash it. Go to Western Union wire them $1200.00 To one person and 500.00 to another and I keep the rest . Big time scam
February 10, 2020
I received a check in the mail for some rims I was selling. The buyer was out of state. I got the check, and called the company that was on the check to let the "buyer" know that I had gotten the check, and I was going to cash it. I am so glad I did that- the receptionist told me that the check was not good, and that there was no such person at the company with the "buyers" name.
Winter Texan E…
February 16, 2020
What should I do if I just got the check in the mail today. Obviously it’s a scam, but should I send it back to them or just destroy it and tell the person who keeps texting me (and can’t spell, big tip off), to stop bothering me? Who do I report them to? I’m glad I researched it before being scammed, but I’d like to know how best to handle it.
FTC Staff
February 18, 2020

In reply to by Winter Texan E…

Some people destroy the bad checks, some people give the checks and envelopes to their local post office (if the mail came by US Postal service).

You can report to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

February 20, 2020
Absolutely called company sent me a check and I clearly stated to them that I will not be cashing anything and for them not to contact me. I actually told that before they sent it. I reported it here and now the so called company is threatening to sue me. Can they do that for not participating in the scam?
June 04, 2020
I received a text asking if I’d be interested in being paid $500/week to put Mountain Dew decals on my truck! I said yes and a week later I have a check for $2,950. The “company” keeps texting me asking if I have deposited this check yet, emailing me the confirmed delivery of the UPS package and asking for a screenshot of deposit immediately after I deposit this check. I’m not an idiot and keep playing with the scammer. I told them I was going to use it to open a separate account just for this “side job” and they replied “Are you kidding me” lol
June 04, 2020
+12672587861 This number has recently called me and left me a voicemail in terms of getting me to receive a check. It was already labeled as a 'scam likely' so I didn't pick up.
July 15, 2020
I just received an official looking letter with a real-looking cashier's check for $2620. They wanted me to be a secret shopper at Walmart and send them all but $500 back after buying moneys for the rest. I was supposed to report how people treated me too, but that wasn't their top concern. If it had been buying other things, I might have fallen for it. I AM a secret shopper! I make money doing that. Secret shopping is a REAL thing. But, this didn't sound right, so I came here to check it out. I was right. It says in the letter that I am to FIRST deposit the money and THEN text a number: 352-900-1336 and let the rep know that I deposited it. Now, I found out that the check WOULD have cleared the bank and given me the money! But...I would have had to pay it back in a few days when they found it to be FAKE. There's a warning in the letter: "There is a tracking detail for every feedback agent. IF upon receipt of this envelope you delay in texting or sending an email confirming you received your package then a phone call will be put through to you and a follow up visit to your address on file by our TASK FORCE Team to retrieve the envelope." Oh, it and says that I would qualify for an extra $300 bonus if I did all of this within 48 hours. Wow! Scammers are evil.
September 22, 2021
This is the number that started my scams from a employment opportunity supposedly Hennepin Healthcare. They will send a check to buy office equipment for you to deposit. +1 (630) 686-1072
November 16, 2021
What do I do if they asked me to pay some other person but I didn’t do it yet