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Other Fraud

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Fake Check Scams Can Leave You Holding the Bag!

If someone you don't know wants to pay you by check . . . but wants you to wire some money back, beware! It is most likely a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.

There are many variations of this fake check scam. It usually starts with someone offering to:

  • Give you the first installment on the millions you'll receive for agreeing to transfer money from a foreign country to your account for safekeeping;
  • Buy something you advertised;
  • Give you an "advance" on a sweepstakes you've won.

The scammers often claim to be outside the US, saying they cannot pay you directly, and that they will have someone who owes them money send you a check or money order. The amount of the check or money order may be more than you are owed, so you are instructed to deposit it and wire the balance to the scammer or to someone else. Or you are told to wire some of the money back to pay a fee to claim your "winnings". In either event, the crooks send a phony check or money order with instructions to deposit it in your account. When you check your balance, it looks like the funds have arrived. After you have wired the money back to the scammer, you learn that the check or money order has bounced - you are left holding the bag - and owing the money!

Bounced Checks Can Cost You

These fake checks look so real that even credit union tellers may be fooled. Under federal law, financial institutions must make the funds you deposit available quickly - usually within one to five days. Just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered.

CAUTION: It is important to keep in mind that under the law, you are responsible for the checks and money orders you deposit because you are in the best position to determine how risky the transaction is. When a check or money order bounces, you owe your financial institution the money you withdrew.

What You Should Do

There is NO legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back - that is a clear sign of a scam. If someone you do not know wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier's check for the exact amount, preferably from a local financial institution or one with a branch in your area.

If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don't deposit it - report it! Contact the National Consumer League's Fraud Center,

Consumers Targeted by Vishing Scam Should Call Agency’s Hotline

The National Credit Union Administration today warned consumers to beware of a new telephone fraud, known as a “vishing” scheme, that is using the agency’s name in an attempt to obtain personal financial information.

Several credit union members have been contacted by an automated phone call claiming to be from NCUA and notifying consumers their debit cards have been compromised. The call then asks the receiver to follow prompts, which request personal information, including sensitive financial data and personal identification information.

Anyone contacted by this so-called “vishing” scheme should immediately contact NCUA’s Consumer Assistance Center Hotline at 800-755-1030 or by email at to report the scam. Operators answer calls Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern.

NCUA neither seeks personal information from consumers over the telephone nor handles day-to-day maintenance of member account information. NCUA works with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to protect consumers from frauds of this nature.

NCUA urges consumers to never verify or release personal financial information to unknown callers.