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Scammers are targeting college students. In the last year, we told you about a car wrap scam and a COVID-19 scam hitting college students. Today, we want to tell you about a fake check scam.

In this one, a scammer posing as a professor sends you an email. It uses a college domain name and a format like The scammer offers you a part-time job, like personal assistant or dog walker. Then, the scammer sends you a check, asks you to deposit it, send some of the money to someone else, and keep the rest as payment. A while later, the bank realizes the check was fake and deducts the original check amount from your account. So, if you deposited a $1,000 check, they’ll take that back. But if you sent $400 to someone else, you’re now out $400 of your own money.

People report losing a lot of money to fake check scams. The median loss in 2019 was $1,988. That’s a lot of money for anyone to lose. But an FTC analysis published earlier this year showed that people in their twenties are more than twice as likely as people over 30 to report losing money to fake check scams.

Fake Check Scams Infographic

So how do you avoid a fake check scam? Never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, or wire money to someone. It’s always a scam. And, once you send the money or put it on a gift card and give someone the gift card PIN, it‘s like giving them cash. It’s almost impossible to get your money back.

Banks have to give you money from deposited checks within a few days. But if the check turns out to be a fake, they’ll make sure they get that money back from your account. The bottom line is, if someone sends you a check and tells you to send money by wire transfer or gift card — it’s a scam.

Spotted a scam like this? We want to hear about it. Let us know at

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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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December 02, 2020
Several years ago while living in Florida I received a check for over $19,000.00 for the part time job of secret shopper it said! I never applied for any job as a secret shopper let alone any job at all. ( retired) was drawn on Wells Fargo Bank. Just for fun I took it to a Wells Fargo Bank. The gentlemen almost shirked, you didn’t try to cash this did you? Oh heavens NO... not a real check. And police didn’t want to even know about it if I didn’t loose money! Scams will never end...
December 02, 2020
It’s not only old people being taken by the scammers. Everyone needs to be alert for fraud.
December 02, 2020
This just happened to me... like last night I found out and it's been absolutely devastating. I've been having financial trouble this whole year because of the pandemic and was excited to make some extra cash being a dog walking. I'm so upset I wasn't smart enough to realize I was being scammed, and now I'm out $2220. Honestly heartbroken right now
former student 2020
December 02, 2020
It happened to me last year, 2019. I was broke and I wanted some part time job then I checked on Craiglist and found this job where they wanted a house cleaner. I applied and received a quick response from poster saying " i am in Canada and will be travelling to New York next week so I need you to send me a list of things which you need for cleaning and list the corresponding values of cleaning supplies , after that I will send you money for the cleaning supplies and your upfront payment so that you do a perfect job" I sent the guy ( he said his name is M. Bowen) the list and within 2 days I had received a mail with $2800 to deposit buy the supplies + my pay. What surprised me is that the check value had more money than I requested. Bowen sent me a message that I should only deposit at the ATM then I wondered why, he then said he was going to send further instructions. Again, when I saw the check the bank name was a suspect to me so I rushed to the bank and asked the bank consultant and told me to hand over to teller if its genuine it should go through. I deposited and I was comfortable so I went back to the bank and asked for a cancellation of the transaction. The guy kept on sending messages asking if the money is now reflecting in the account and I asked him to send me the keys to the house and address where I was going to be working and that was it. Up to day he hasn't send me anything and then I concluded it was a scam.
December 03, 2020
Thank you for all that you do to try and keep us all safe, it is really disgusting how these people would take advantage of people in dire needs, thank you again and all stay safe and healthy!
December 04, 2020
I was scammed days ago out of $400.00 and I borrowed half of that to pay deposit on a home for me and my kids. What made me fall for his tactic was that he had instructions on creating an account with and there he gave access to get the key out of the security block in the door while the actual realtor was not aware that I have entered their home. The perpetrator told me I can keep the key if I was gonna make a payment o eat the phone. Now I am stuck with having to move by January 17 and no deposit money. It hurts for me because my kids depends on it and I’m a full time student. This is upsetting