Identified Scam:

Fake Cashier's Check Scams: How to Spot and Beat Them

When selling items online, accepting a cashier's check for payment can be a risky business as scammers use fake cashier's checks to steal from you.


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Updated 29 April 2021
Fake Cashier's Check Scams: How to Spot and Beat Them

TheDigitel.com

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Identified Scam:

Key Finding

Scammers use fake cashier's checks to pay for items being sold on sites like Craigslist, banking on you not finding out the check is fake until you've already handed over the item.


Key Risk

You could unknowingly give the scammer the item for free. Depending on the item you're selling you could be out hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Sections on this page
  1. What is the Cashier's Check Scam?
  2. How to Beat and Avoid Cashier's Check Scams
  3. Examples Fake Cashier's Checks
  4. Fallen for This Cashier's Check Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions About Cashier's Check Scams

To beat cashier's check scams you need to know how to identify a fake check and also use best practices when selling items on sites like Craigslist and OfferUp. Some of the most common red flags to watch out for include:

  • Someone who only want to pay via check (even if you request payment via another method)
  • Someone overpaying for an item then asking for a refund for the overpaid amount

What is the Cashier's Check Scam?

Fake cashier's check scams are pretty simple. Someone offers to buy your item for sale via a cashier's check, which will actually be fake. If you give them the item before realizing the check is fake, they'll have essentially stolen it. Here's how the scam works. 

Someone Offers to Buy Your Item via a Cashier's Check

Once you agree to sell your item to a potential buyer, they say they can only pay you with a cashier's check. You consider a cashier's check safe since banks issue them, so you agree. The buyer gives you a cashier's check, and you give them the product.

In some cases, the scammer will "accidentally" give you a check for more than the agreed-to amount, then ask you to refund the difference or to use the extra money to pay a third party for shipping.

Example Communication with Scammer

I have sent you a cashier's check which is approved by bank and will clear within 24 hours of deposit. My movers will come pick the item up from you once you receive the check. 

Your Bank Notifies You That the Cashier's Check is Fake

You try to deposit the cashier's check only to find out the check is fake. You realize the buyer was a scammer who stole your product without paying for it. They also took off with the money you refunded them.

If you paid a third party to help with shipping or other costs, that third party was also part of the scam.

The Buyer (aka Scammer) Is Nowhere to Be Found

The scammer has taken off with your product and cuts all contact with you, so you're unable to get your money or item back.

How to Beat and Avoid Cashier's Check Scams

Cashier's checks are popular because they have a reputation for being safe. Authentic cashier's checks are issued by banks and verify that the account it's coming from has the funds. However, scammers have become better at replicating fake cashier's checks, making them harder to identify.

The best way to beat this scam is not to accept cashier's checks as payment in the first place. If you absolutely must accept a check, be sure to deposit it and wait for the bank to clear it first before handing over the item.

If you're selling something online, consider these tips to avoid falling for a phony cashier's check:

  • Look for tell-tale signs of fake checks
  • Don't hand over any items or money until the check clears
  • Go to the bank with the buyer
  • Don't accept cashier's checks from someone you don't know

Look for Tell-Tale Signs of Cashier's Check Scams

Cashier's checks have the banking institution's information on the front of the check. If there is no bank information on the check, it's not real, and you should not accept it.

If there is bank information, make sure the bank is real with a quick Google search. Then, call the bank and explain your situation. They should be able to help you identify if the check is genuine.

Don't use the phone number that is on the check. Some scammers will provide fake numbers for real banks that get forwarded to them or another scammer to convince you the check is genuine. If the number on the check doesn't match the number you find online, that's another sign it's a fake cashier's check.

The cashier's check should also have your name (as the payee) and the amount to be paid printed on by the check by the bank, not handwritten. 

Elements of a fake check
(Source: Better Business Bureau)

Don't Send the Product Until the Check has Cleared

When a cashier's check clears, that means the funds have gone into your account. It can take anywhere from 1-3 business days for the check to clear. If a buyer insists on paying you with a cashier's check, wait to give them the product until the money is safely in your account.

A legit buyer shouldn't have a problem with waiting for the check to clear.

Go to the Bank with the Buyer to Get the Cashier's Check

If the buyer insists on giving you a cashier's check, ask to go with them to the bank to get the check. Banks will only issue cashier's checks for an amount available in the requesting account. If you're able to witness someone getting a check directly from their bank, you can ensure the check will clear, and you'll get the money.

Don't Accept Cashier's Checks from Someone You Don't Know

The best way to not fall victim to a cashier's check scam is to not accept cashier's checks from people you don't know. If you're selling something online, the best way to ensure you'll get paid is to request cash.

If a potential buyer seems resistant to pay in cash and says they need to pay with a cashier's check, it's likely a scam. If the seller can't provide cash because they live too far away, consider finding a local buyer.

Examples Fake Cashier's Checks

A fake cashier's check can be given to anyone selling a product or service online. They've become increasingly popular as scammers have found new ways to make fake cashier's checks look legitimate.

Many have the correct information on the front of the check, such as the bank name, the bank location, and the security features label on the bottom. They also have the proper printing on the backs and micro-perf edges.

Example of a fake check
Fake cashier's checks can look very legitimate, making it difficult to spot a scam. (Source: City-Data.com)

If you're ever unsure whether a cashier's check is real or not you can look up the bank to make sure it exists or try to cash/deposit it. Just remember to wait until the check clears before handing over any items or money. 

Example of fake cashier's check
Just because a check looks legit, it doesn't mean it's real. Be sure to wait for the check to clear first before handing over your item. (Source: Reddit)

Example of a fake cashier's check
Genuine cashier's checks will have the payee's name and amount printed on by the bank, not handwritten. (Source: TheDigitel.com)

Fallen for This Cashier's Check Scam?

If you suspect you may have deposited a fake cashier's check, the most important thing to do first is not to send the item or any money. If you already have done so, see if you can cancel the shipment. Then follow these steps. 

Contact Your Bank

Notify your bank and let them know you may have fallen for a cashier's check scam. Some banks charge fees for depositing fake checks, so letting them know as soon as possible could save you a fee. It would help if you also informed the bank that the cashier's check claimed to have come from.

Report the Cashier's Check Scam to the Authorities

If you met the scammer in person and the sale was local, contact your local police department. You will need to provide them with as much detail as possible to help them catch the scammer. Whether they're able to help you get your stolen item back is dependent on each case, but it's helpful to inform the department of scammers to save others from falling for a similar scam.

You should also report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once you report the scam, the FTC will provide additional follow-up actions to keep your personal information safe. Like the police department, they likely will not be able to get your product back, but reporting the fraud helps them protect others.

Report the Scam to the Website/Platform Used

Report the scam to whatever online platform you used to sell your product. You can give details about the scammer, and (depending on the site) they may be able to block the buyer so they can't send fake cashier's checks to other unsuspecting sellers.

Providing information about the scam also helps sites such as Craigslist and Facebook improve their security measures to keep future scammers from performing similar scams.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cashier's Check Scams

Can you get scammed with a cashier's check?

Yes, you can get scammed with a cashier's check that looks real but is, in fact, fake. Scammers make very convincing fake checks in the hopes that you send items or money before a bank clears the check, then they cut all contact with you. 

How do cashier's check scams work?

Cashier's check scams work in different ways. The most common and straightforward scenario is when someone buying an item from you online pays using a fake cashier's check. Before the check clears, you send them the item. By the time you realize the check is a fake, you've already sent the item and won't be able to contact the scammer.

How can I avoid cashier's check scams?

The easiest way to avoid being scammed by a fake cashier's check is not to accept cashier's checks in the first place. When selling items, it's safest to get cash as payment and only deal with people face to face, only handing over your items for sale once you have the cash in hand.

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