If someone you don’t know or have never met face to face sends you a check and asks for money back, it’s a scam. Let me repeat, it’s a scam.

Scams involve phony job and income opportunities, online or text message relationships and others. When someone you have never met face to face sends you a check with instructions to deposit the check and wire funds, purchase gift cards or pay someone to complete a job, you’re getting scammed, and you could be out thousands of dollars. We're going to talk about two fraudulent check scams we see a lot of.

Car Wrapping

One of the more popular phony job scams is car wrapping. The gist of this scam is scammers send emails, text messages or post to online job boards something attention grabbing such as GET PAID TO DRIVE! When you reach out to the “company” for more information about the “job” you are told you will be paid a weekly salary to drive your vehicle around wrapped with advertising for their company. That’s it. That is all you must do to earn a weekly salary. Just drive your car around. Easy peasy right? Too easy! You are not actually talking with someone from that company, you are talking with a scammer who only wants your money. The “company” will send you a $1,500.00 (or other larger dollar amount) check along with instructions to deposit the check into your bank account and to contact them once the check is deposited so they can send someone to wrap your car along with an explanation to send a portion of the check, in this example $500.00, to the decal agent to pay them to wrap your car. They may ask you to send the funds by Western Union, purchase gift cards or other ways that are hard to stop or get your money back from. They tell you to send the money or purchase the gift cards the same day you deposit the check to meet the agreements of their terms and to get your weekly payments. The “decal agent” is a scammer and the $1,500.00 check you deposited into your account will be returned as fraudulent. The bank has no choice but to debit your account for the $1,500.00 and you are out $500.00 of your own money and, big surprise, you don’t get to keep the $1,000.00 either. If you’ve already spent the $1,000.00, your account could end up overdrawn and you will owe the bank money.

Online Dating

A lot of people turn to dating sites to help find companionship or romance. Many scammers create fake profiles, or they contact you through social media or text messages and build a relationship with you based solely on trust, sometimes by chatting several times a day for several months. Once the scammer feels they have gained your trust, they make up a story about needing money and ask you to help them. They send you a check and ask you to deposit it for them and send part of the money back to them so they can buy a plane ticket to come and be with you. They may tell you they cannot have a bank account or they’re currently living in another country and because the check is in US dollars, they can’t deposit it at their foreign bank. Once you deposit the check and send them the money, they will stop all contact with you, the check will be returned as fraudulent, and you could end up overdrawn and owe the bank money. Bottom line, never send money to someone you have not met in person.

One final thing to keep in mind, any check can be a fraudulent check. Even if it is a bank cashiers check, government check or a check drawn on a reputable business. If you ever receive a check you were not expecting or if you were expecting it and must send some of the money from that check to someone else, you are probably being scammed.

Written By: Melissa Short - Senior Vice President, Cashier