Fake Check and Money Order Scams

Fake checks and money orders may not be simple mistakes. They’re often used in employment, fake lottery and online purchase scams.

There’s a common denominator behind all scams involving fake checks and money orders. You are sent a check or money order (usually for more than is needed), deposit it, and then forward some of that money to a third party or back to the scammers themselves. And all that will happen before your bank can intervene and warn you that it’s fake.

What makes these scams particularly effective is that relatively few people understand how checks work. When you deposit a check in your account, the money is usually available right away, or very shortly thereafter. But that doesn’t mean the check isn’t forged. It could still be phony, or overdrawn. When your bank finally realizes it a few days down the road, they will debit the full amount from your account.

How Are Fake Checks and Money Orders Used in Scams?

You may get an email or a phone call. Or respond to an ad. Either way it’s an offer to work from home. You respond and will speak with someone who will ask a few questions and pretend it’s some sort of job interview.  The “interviewer” may even pretend to be from a well-known company.  It will sound realistic and professional. Don’t worry about your answers, because ultimately you’ll be told you’re “hired.”  Congratulations!

But before you begin, you will need to buy a few items before beginning work. Standard procedure, they’ll say. In any event, it sounds logical. You can’t do the work without the type of a computer or printer or smartphone they require. Or a sample inventory of the merchandise they sell. There are many variations on the theme. You need something they will supply and you have to pay for it in advance. They promise they’ll send you a check or money order to cover your expenses after you start making money yourself. So you send off the money and wait. If they send you anything it will be useless junk. Your “employer” disappears with your payment, and the checks they send you all bounce. Or the money order is a fake. That’s the scam.

Variations on the Theme

A popular variation on the theme is the mystery shopper scam. You’ve been hired to do some shopping for them. They’ll send a check or money order to cover your commission and your shopping expenses, with an “extra” amount to send to the next mystery shopper. Or the system you’re “testing” is the store’s money wiring service or gift cards. Either way, the money you send is really going right back to your “employer.” The scammer gets your money before you realize you’ve been robbed.

Or imagine you’re told out of the blue that you’ve won some sort of lottery or sweepstakes that you don’t remember ever playing. Congratulations! You just need to pay some taxes or fees to release the winnings. No problem! They’ll send you a check or money order to cover it … and by now you know how it ends.

Craigslist Scams

Or perhaps you’re selling something online, like a car or an expensive piece of furniture on Craigslist. A buyer contacts you and asks to pay by check. When you receive it (often by FedEx to make it faster and more believable), it turns out to be for more than the agreed-upon price. The buyer apologizes and asks you to please return the extra amount by bank transfer or Western Union or something. And voila! You’re scammed. Plus you’ve probably already given them whatever you were selling too.

The best way to avoid falling for scams involving fake checks and money orders is to recognize them from the beginning. Legitimate businesses will almost never send you a check and then ask you to forward that money to a third party. It is a huge red flag. In the event that you really believe that the business is legitimate, never forward any money first. If they say they will send you money, wait until you can verify with your bank that the checking account has sufficient funds or the money order is legitimate. And then make sure your own account has been credited.  No matter how long it takes, do not allow yourself to be pressured or rushed by a stranger demanding money. If they need it right away, and they’re threatening to terminate your job or your earnings, you know why. Report them to the authorities instead.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a fake check or money order scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.