Counterfeit check scams take many different forms, but their most common form is where you are provided a check, under a wide variety of pretenses, for more than you would be paid and asked to wire the difference to the person giving you the check.  The check is counterfeit and after you deposit it into your bank account, it will ultimately bounce and be rejected, however, the money you wire from your bank account, believing that the check was legitimate is gone forever with no recourse.

In one instance, a California woman received an unsolicited letter in the mail with a check made out to her in the amount of $4,900.  The letter appeared to come from the U.S. Postal Service and told her that she had been chosen to participate in a survey evaluating the services of her local post office branch.  She was instructed to deposit the check and then use the money to buy four $1,000 money orders from her local post office and send the money orders to an address provided to her.  She was told that she could keep the remaining $900 as her compensation for performing these tasks. Of course, the check was counterfeit and ultimately bounced, but her own funds used to purchase the money orders was lost when the money orders were quickly cashed.

The check sent by the scammer looks legitimate. Unfortunately, the check is counterfeit. Often in these circumstances the check will appear to be a bank check or a certified check, but it is just a forgery.  Sometimes, the victims of this scam will think they are being prudent by waiting a few days for the check to clear only to learn later that it can take weeks for a check to fully clear and the provisional credit that you are given by your bank after a few days does not mean that the check was legitimate. Once the check is discovered by the bank to be a forgery the provisional credit is taken away and the victim of the scam has lost the money he or she wired to the scammer from his or her bank account.

TIPS

Whenever you are paid for something  by a check for more than the amount that is due and the payment comes with a request for you to send the difference back to the sender, this is an indication of a scam.  Also, anytime you are paid by a check you should wait for the check to fully clear before considering it to be valid.  Even if the check appears to be a bank check or a certified check, it may well be a forgery so you should contact your bank to make sure that the check has fully cleared before you consider the payment to have been made.  Regardless of the excuse that may be given to you as to the reason for payment by way of a check for more than what is owed, you should be suspicious.  Finally, always be wary when someone requires you to send a payment wired by Western Union or wired from your bank because once those payments have been made, it is impossible to get the money back.

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