Computer technology has given con artists the ability to make very good counterfeits. Unlike currency that has a specific design and uses special paper and security features, each bank’s cashier’s checks are designed differently and printed on many kinds of check paper with any varying number of security features. It’s this inconsistency that makes cashier’s checks a likely target for counterfeiters.
Many people can fall victim to this type of fraud because the person accepting the cashier’s check doesn’t know what a genuine check is supposed to look like. Although people can feel relatively safe in accepting genuine cashier’s checks, a person accepting a counterfeit check is generally financially liable for the item. If you have questions concerning the acceptance of a cashier’s check contact your personal banker at 1st Source Bank.
Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scams: How They Work
- You get a bad check and they get your car
The scam begins when a counterfeiter poses as a potential buyer of a large item for sale. For example, the item can be a car. The seller signs over the title and the counterfeiter heads directly to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Within an hour, he could have a new title and you have no idea you have a bad check. He'll find another buyer looking for a good deal and sell him the car cheap.
- You receive over payment for an item you are selling
Another scam finds the counterfeiter buying expensive items on the Internet or through newspaper classified ads. Many of the individuals posing as potential buyers are from overseas or say they are from overseas. This is how the scam unfolds:
- The buyer sends a check for an amount greater than the seller's price
- The buyer then asks the seller to send by Western Union® the overpayment to another individual who will be making arrangements for shipping of the purchased property.
A seller may not only lose the property they’re trying to sell, but they may also become financially liable for the counterfeit check they accepted to purchase the property.
- You receive a check and are asked to wire the funds
Another scam using counterfeit cashier’s checks doesn’t involve the purchase or sale of anything. A request may come to you by email, fax, or letter asking for your help in moving millions of dollars out of a foreign country and into the United States.
- They may say they are a widow of a former military officer in a foreign country who needs assistance in moving money out of the country before her country’s government confiscates the money.
- They may say they are an official of their country’s government and that they’ve discovered money in a government account that comes from companies that were over-invoiced for work they did for their government and they now want your help in moving the money out of the country.
- They’ll even attempt to pass themselves off as a religious organization asking for help to move money belonging to an orphanage that is being shut down by their country’s government.
- They tell potential victims that they are an heir of an estate and there is an unclaimed inheritance waiting for them. They ask individuals to mail in a fee to help locate and process the claim to their inheritance.
There are hundreds of variations of this scam. At some point they will ask for money that is needed to pay taxes or a claim fee on the money before it can leave the country. When the person who volunteers their services to help move the money indicates they don’t have the money to pay the necessary fees, the scammer says they have a check (which is counterfeit) that they say they obtained from someone who was willing to advance the money for the needed fees. The volunteer is then directed to deposit the money into their bank account and then wire transfer the money to another party. When the counterfeit check is returned unpaid from the bank that it is supposedly drawn on, the bank customer becomes liable for the check and has to return the money to the bank.
Tips for Avoiding Counterfeit Cashier's Checks
- Be suspicious of offers from outside the United States.
- Be wary if a buyer sends more than the purchase price of an item.
- Use Internet phone directories to obtain the phone number of the bank issuing the cashier's check. Call or visit the bank to confirm the check is legitimate.
- If you're selling a car, tell the buyer you'll meet him at the bank that issued the check. That way you will know if the check is for real.
- If it's an out of state check cashier's check, tell the buyer to cash it himself. Treat a cashier's check like any check - with caution.
- If possible, ask that the funds be wired to your account. Typical wire fees range from $20 to $25.
Remember to trust your instincts. If you suspect something is wrong, don't do the deal. Almost all victims were suspicious at first, but did not trust their feelings.
For additional information relevant to counterfeit checks, visit the web sites listed below: