Typical Types of Fake Check Schemes

This information can be used in speeches or incorpo­rated into fact sheets or handouts for consumers.

Fake check scams generally fall into one of the following scenarios:

Foreign Business Offers

The potential victim receives an e-mail from a supposed foreign official, businessman, etc., with a proposal. The sender wants to move large sums of money from a foreign country and needs assistance. The victim is usually offered a portion of the proceeds. If the victim agrees, he usually receives checks for large sums of money in the mail. The victim deposits the checks into his bank account and the funds are posted to the account and shown as “available.”

The fraudster wishes to send more money to the victim but quickly needs a portion of it returned in order to sup­posedly bribe an official, pay transfer fees, etc. The victim believes the previously deposited checks were genuine because the funds show as “available” in his bank account, so he honors the request and wires a portion of the funds back to the fraudster. The original deposited checks are returned as counterfeit and the victim is then held respon­sible for the loss and associated fees.

Sudden Riches

The potential victim receives a letter stating he has the right to receive a substantial sum of money. For example, the letter may say that the potential victim has won a for­eign lottery or is the beneficiary of someone’s estate, such as that of a long-lost relative. The letter will inform the vic­tim that he must pay a processing or transfer fee before receiving the money. However, a check or money order is enclosed to cover the required fee. The letter will ask the victim to deposit the check or money order into his bank account and wire the fee to a third party, usually in a foreign country.

No legitimate contest promoter will ever ask for money to be paid up-front in order to send out a prize. It’s also wise to ask yourself whether you even entered the contest in the first place.

Work-at-Home Schemes

The potential victim answers an online advertisement, or posts his résumé on a job search Web site. The victim is awarded a job, “Payment Processing Clerk,” “Accounts Receivable Clerk,” etc. The victim’s new employer is an international company located overseas. The company claims it costs too much to process U.S. checks in its own country and the victim’s new job will be to receive and deposit payments from its customers — in checks made out to the victim — and wire nearly all of the money back to them. This, the advertiser claims, will somehow save the company time and processing fees.

The victim is instructed to keep 5 percent to 10 percent of the check value as his work-at-home salary. The victim deposits the checks and wires the money to the fictional employer when the funds are shown as available and posted to his account. It is done, of course, before the deposited checks actually clear.

Love Losses

A scam artist poses as a single person looking for a rela­tionship through an online dating service. The scammer may even include an attractive photo in the correspon­dence so the victim can “put a face with a name.” It’s often a photo the scammer found using an Internet search engine.

As the online “relationship” progresses, the potential victim is told that funds are needed to pay for travel expenses for his/her “new companion” to travel to the United States so that the two can “begin their life together.” The victim soon receives checks or money orders. The vic­tim is instructed to deposit the check or money order into his/her bank account and transfer a portion of the funds, via a wire service, to cover the travel expenses. Not long after the money is wired, the companion disappears into cyberspace.


A scammer offers overpayments on items that a con­sumer advertised in the classifieds or on an online auction. The scammer sends the seller a check or money order for more than the purchase price and then asks that the extra money be sent to someone who will take care of shipping.

In another scenario, scam artists say that a check or money order payment will come from someone who owes them money and tell the victim to deduct his/her share and send the rest. They may claim they’re in a foreign country and that because of currency differences it’s difficult to make payment directly.

There’s no reason to have someone else send payment.

Scammers sometimes claim they sent the wrong amount “by mistake” and ask victims to return the excess. Legitimate buyers will be happy to send the exact amount you’re owed.

Rental Schemes

Finding a good roommate or someone reliable to rent your property is hard enough without getting tangled up in a fake check scam. Learn the warning signs:

Legitimate renters will be happy to send the exact amount you’re owed.