By knowing the signs of a fake check scam, you may avoid a financial disaster.
Have you ever received a letter claiming you won a sweepstakes or lottery that you know nothing about? All you have to do is pay taxes on it first and the money is yours.
Or have you ever tried to sell something online or in the classifieds and received a check for more than you asked for? Whoops! The buyer asks you to please just send back the overpayment.
Both of these examples are common counterfeit check scams that can destroy your finances if you’re not careful. The catch with scams like these is that the sender needs you to send money back to him. So you have to pay someone in order to get the money that supposedly belongs to you. Does this make any sense?
The problem for you with these scams is that once you deposit a counterfeit check, it can sometimes take several days to clear the bank and be detected as fake. Your bank, however, has to make the funds available to you within a certain amount of time even if the clearing process has not yet completed. So, you may see money in your account, assume the check is good, and wire the sender the taxes or overpayment amount as requested. If the check turns out to be bad, however, you are responsible for returning those funds even if you have already spent them. If you sent a portion of those funds to the sender of the check, that money is gone and will likely never be recovered.
The Federal Trade Commission provides a lot of helpful information about counterfeit check scams on its web site.