1. If you deposit a check from a stranger, discuss
the situation with your banker before spending that money or handing over
anything of value.
It’s safer not to accept checks from strangers, but if you do,
tell your banker about the circumstances surrounding the check and ask
when the check is likely to be considered “good” (paid).
While federal regulations require institutions to make funds from
a deposit available quickly – generally within one to five business
days – it can take a couple of weeks or longer before the financial
institution discovers that the deposited check is worthless.
The check could be counterfeit or bounce because of insufficient funds,
and your financial institution will most likely hold you responsible
for that money.
away from any deal if you get a check for more than the amount due and
you’re instructed to return the difference.
Let’s say you sell a $5,000 item over the Internet and the buyer
sends a check or money order for $10,000. The buyer, who has an explanation
why the check is for more than what you expected, instructs you to deposit
the check and wire the excess amount to his account or to the account
of an associate. It may take a couple of weeks, but eventually the check
will be returned as counterfeit.
3. Take additional precautions to make sure a check is
Consider insisting on being paid with a money order or a cashier’s
check (not a personal check) drawn on a local financial institution.
That way you can take the check to that financial institution to ensure
Also, consider asking for a money order from the U.S. Postal Service.
These come in values of up to 1,000 for domestic money orders and up
to $700 for international money orders.
To confirm that a Postal Service money order is valid or to cash it,
you can take it to a local post office. You can also verify a Postal
Service money order by using an automated service at toll-free 1-866-459-7822.
4. Immediately report if you think you’re a victim
of a check fraud or if you notice something suspicious.
Contact your financial institution as well as the local office of the
FBI (listed in your phone book and on the FBI website at: www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/fraudschemes.htm).
Also, notify the National Fraud Information Center at www.fraud.org or 800-876-7060. There are also more detailed tips about fake check
scams in the telemarketing and internet fraud sections of the website.
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