Bank and Check Scams | Office of the Attorney General (2024)

Few scams are as dangerous as those that target your bank accounts. If you aren't careful, you could lose your entire savings. Learn how to spot and avoid these clever cons.

Don't Share Your Banking Info Easily

The easiest way to become a victim of a bank scam is to share your banking info — e.g., account numbers, PIN codes, social security number — with someone you don't know well and trust. If someone asks for sensitive banking details, proceed with caution.

Common Bank & Check Scams

As banking becomes more automated and electronic, the opportunities for scammers to fool you are increasing. Keep an eye out for these common scam attempts:

Fake Communications from “Your Bank”

Scammers can use all sorts of tricks to figure out which bank you use, including your social media and Internet activity (or just by guessing a major bank). They send you communications — mail, email, text messages, social media messages, etc. — that appear to be from your bank.

In these fake bank messages, the scammer will sometimes offer some great deal in exchange for an upfront fee, ask you to confirm your bank info for their records or report "suspicious activity" that you need to follow up on.

Guess what? They're lying.

Avoid This Scam: Your bank will never contact you for sensitive information by email or phone. If someone claims to be from your bank and asks you for sensitive info, there's a great chance they're trying to steal your money – so proceed with caution and reach out to your bank with a previously known phone number or website to confirm.

Check Overpayment

This scam, which often happens on the Internet, is one of the oldest on the books. Here's how it works:

You sell something online. Someone buys it. But they pay you with a check/money order that's more than the selling price. The buyer (who's often overseas) asks you to cash their check and wire/mail them the difference. You do as they ask, only to discover that their check/money order was a fake. This can even happen with a cashier's check!

But it's too late. You've already sent money, and now, you're being charged with a check return fee on top of the money you already lost.

Avoid This Scam: If you receive a non-cash payment—e.g., a check—call the issuing bank to confirm that it's a real check associated with a real account. You can also ask your bank to confirm the check's authenticity. Never send money (especially overseas) until you've confirmed the payment is legitimate.

Cashing a Check For Someone Else

This scam plays on your generosity and compassion. A stranger will approach you — often at a bank location — and ask you to cash a check for them. "I don't have an account at this bank," they'll say, "and I need someone to cash the check for me and give me the money."

The trick? The check is no good. But it'll take a day or two for you to discover that. The money you pulled out to pay this stranger ends up being paid with your money, not the bad check. They're long gone, and you're left without anything to show for your kindness.

Avoid This Scam: Don't cash a check for anyone, especially a stranger. If someone asks you to cash a check for them, explain that they can cash the check themselves, minus a small non-customer fee. They don't need your help to get their money.

Job Scams

There are countless scammers out there who'll pretend they have a legitimate, work-at-home job for you: In exchange for a commission, you'll transfer funds in and out of your bank account.

Sounds quick and easy, right? And it is. Until you realize that this "job" is really just an excuse to gain access to your financial accounts, which they then use to wipe out your finances.

Avoid This Scam: If it's too good to be true, it probably is — especially whenever someone offers you a simple job with a potentially huge financial reward. Never take a job that requires you to pay a fee or upfront cost, no matter how the "employer" justifies it.

Bank and Check Scams | Office of the Attorney General (2024)


Bank and Check Scams | Office of the Attorney General? ›

If you believe that you have been targeted by a fake check scam, you should consider reporting it to the New York State Attorney General's Office. You can do so by calling 1-800-771-7755, visiting complaints.

How do you know if someone is scamming you with a check? ›

While there are many ways to fabricate a fake check, there are just as many warning signs of counterfeit checks.
  1. Irregular perforations.
  2. Missing check numbers.
  3. Incorrect routing codes.
  4. Odd magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) lines.
  5. Notations in the memo area.
  6. Stains or discolorations on the check.
  7. Other discrepancies.

What happens if you cash a fake check without knowing it? ›

It appears as a debit, but it's really in clearing. Often the bank won't get to verify the check within those two days. They may do this a week later. Once the bank discovers the counterfeit check, they will reverse the full amount and deduct all of that money.

What are some bank scams? ›

Keep an eye out for these common scam attempts:
  • Fake Communications from “Your Bank” Scammers can use all sorts of tricks to figure out which bank you use, including your social media and Internet activity (or just by guessing a major bank). ...
  • Check Overpayment. ...
  • Cashing a Check For Someone Else. ...
  • Job Scams.

Can someone steal your bank info from a check? ›

The short answer: Real damage. The combination of a bank account and routing number is a dangerous combo that scammers want. And those two numbers are fairly accessible. Think about how often these numbers get circulated: every time a check is written, cashed, signed over to someone else.

How to verify if a check is real? ›

Every legitimate check contains a number that appears in two places: in the upper-right corner and in the magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) line at the bottom. If the numbers don't match, it's a bogus check. And be wary of low numbers, such as 101-400 on a personal check or 1,000-1,500 on a business check.

What happens if someone sends you a fake check and you try to deposit it? ›

Many people who deposit fake checks are unknowing victims. But depositing a fake or washed check, even if you didn't realize it, can have serious consequences: You may have to pay back the full amount of the check. In most cases, once a check is found to be fraudulent, the amount will be charged to your bank account.

Can your bank account be hacked by depositing a check? ›

Mobile deposit scams, or fake check scams, involve fraudsters depositing fake checks into victims' bank accounts to gain access to their money. Once these deposits are made, victims are asked to withdraw the funds and return them, usually through a third-party money transfer account.

How long does it take for a bank to realize a fake check? ›

Fake Checks and Your Bank

By law, banks have to make deposited funds available quickly, usually within two days. When the funds are made available in your account, the bank may say the check has “cleared,” but that doesn't mean it's a good check. Fake checks can take weeks to be discovered and untangled.

Why would a scammer send a check? ›

The scammer's motive is to get you to cash or deposit the check and send back legitimate money before you realize that the check you deposited is fake.

Who investigates bank scams? ›

The FBI works with partners to investigate mortgage and financial institution fraud cases. The FBI participates in task forces that share intelligence, de-conflict cases, and create joint investigations.

Are banks responsible if you get scammed? ›

Under federal regulations, financial institutions only have to compensate customers for “unauthorized” transactions, meaning money transfers that the consumers did not personally approve. If customers approve the transfer, banks do not have to reimburse them, even if the customer was tricked into making it.

How to spot a bank scammer? ›

Be aware that banks, building societies, utility companies, lottery organisers, law enforcement or statutory bodies will never:
  1. ask for payment in vouchers.
  2. ask you to transfer money over the phone to a different account.
  3. ask for any part of your pin code.
  4. ask for remote access to your computer or mobile device.

Can someone withdraw money with a routing and account number? ›

If someone gains access to your bank account and routing numbers, they can use the information to fraudulently withdraw or transfer money from your account. They can also create fake checks, claim your tax return or commit other forms of financial fraud.

Is there a way to verify funds on a check? ›

Visit the bank where the check was issued. Present the check to a teller and request verification. Provide any additional information requested by the bank.

Can someone check my bank account balance with my account number? ›

Most banks no longer allow others to check or know your bank account balance. However, some banks provide the account balance details when people simply call and request it. For instance, anyone knowing your account information can call the bank to verify the fund on a cheque.

Can you get scammed by getting a check? ›

Fake checks can take weeks to be discovered and untangled. By that time, the scammer has any money you sent, and you're stuck paying the money back to the bank. Your best bet: Don't rely on money from a check unless you know and trust the person you're dealing with.

What happens if you accept a fake check? ›

The consequences of depositing a fake check — even unknowingly — can be costly. You may be responsible for repaying the entire amount of the check. While bank policies and state laws vary, you may have to pay the bank the entire amount of the fraudulent check that you cashed or deposited into your account.

How can I verify a check instantly? ›

A step-by-step guide to verifying a check online can be broken down into two main methods: contacting the issuing bank or credit union and utilizing third-party check verification services. Both options have their advantages and limitations, and it's important to weigh these factors when deciding which method to use.

Is it safe to text a picture of a check? ›

The image of your check also isn't stored on your phone, so you don't have to worry about accidentally sending it to someone else later. The biggest threat to mobile deposit is if your phone contracts malware from downloading unofficial apps – apps which aren't from the Google Play or Apple stores.


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