Fake check scams take the fun out of funds

If you ever receive a check for a deal that seems too good to be true, it’s wise to be suspicious.

Bad actors, skilled at tricking unsuspecting individuals out of additional money, run check-based scams every day. Here are just a few of the more common examples:

  • Overpayment scam—You’re sent a fake check for more than the agreed-upon amount and are asked to return the overage.
  • Employment scam—Someone offers to hire you to perform a task. They send you a fake check to cover expenses, but they ask you to send back the “extra money.”
  • Lottery/sweepstakes scam—You’re told you’ve won a prize in a lottery or sweepstakes and are sent a fake check. To claim your prize, however, you must cover fees or expenses by returning a partial payment to the sender.
  • Instagram/Social Media Art ScamSomeone sends you a direct message through social media saying they like your pictures and want to use them to create a mural/painting. They electronically send you an image of the front and back of a check and tell you to deposit the check through your financial institution’s mobile app. They tell you to keep part of the funds and to send the rest to a third party for the art supplies.


Fake checks often look convincingly real and can fool even the most experienced tellers, so it’s important that you take a second to think about the situation and the reason you received the check. Does it make sense? Does it seem too easy to make money or too good to be true? Are you being asked to send a portion to someone else? Keep these questions in mind while you examine the check.

BE A STICKLER FOR DETAILS. Take a moment to inspect the check for spelling errors, consistency in fonts, printing quality, watermarks, and other security features. Counterfeit checks often have celebrity names on the signature line, or vague memos like “approved payment”. If anything seems amiss, don’t deposit it.

VERIFY YOUR SOURCES. Receiving an unexpected windfall can be exciting, but always be cautious if you get a check you weren’t expecting from an unknown source. Verify the sender’s identity and their reason for sending it to you.

INFORM YOUR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION. Tell them your concerns prior to depositing the check. Explain how/why you received it and ask if they can verify its legitimacy. Be honest with them- especially if the person who sent the check told you it was confidential and not to tell anyone, or told you to lie about the reason you received it. That is a HUGE red flag that this is a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can provide helpful information and resources about common scams. You can also report check scams and fraudulent activity directly to the FTC, your state attorney general’s office, or local law enforcement.