Phony Check Scams - It Looks Real, The Bank May Say It Is Real: But It's a Counterfeit!

Phony Check Scams
Forged and Counterfeit Checks You Receive From a Stranger

If you received a check from someone you don't know and didn't expect to receive, it is probably a forgery!

We have many examples of fake / counterfeit checks sent to victims, with my different reasons for the check: to pay taxes on winnings from a lottery, as part of a "payment transfer" job, to compensate for some "fees", "for your past efforts", etc. You may even take it to your bank and ask them if it is real, and the bank may say "Yes" - but we can assure you: they are wrong, and when the check bounces - you will be liable! your bank cannot possibly know whether the check is forged, if it account numbers on it are real.  Only the holder of the account would know whether they wrote the check or not.

The bottom line is always the same: the check is forged and if you cash it, it will bounce, and the victim will be liable for the full amount, any fees, penalties and possible be charged with a crime, from passing bad checks to fraud.

Catch Me If You Can!

If you saw the film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, then you understand basically how this scam works. The scammers use stolen checks, often taken right from people's mailboxes, to obtain real bank account numbers.  The scammer then prints their own checks using the account numbers, names and bank names from the stolen blank checks. The bank has no way of knowing that the check is a stolen forgery (unless the owner of the stolen checks reports them as stolen or never delivered).

It is an AFF / Money transfer Scam.  They'll send you counterfeit checks which you are supposed to deposit, take out some percentage (typically, 10%) for your work, and then MoneyGram or Western Union wire the remaining 90%.  See this page for a step-by-step explanation of how the payment manager scam unfolds.

Of course, since the check is fake, it will bounce a week or so later after you deposit it.  But you have already moneygram'ed the scammers the 90% of the amount, and that is transacted almost instantly.  So you now owe the bank for the full amount. You may also face criminal charges for passing counterfeit checks.

Sample Phony check scam emails

See these pages for actual scam emails received:

  1. Barrister Ben Esq, Mr Fednard Marth - "Subject: I DID NOT FORGET YOUR PAST EFFORTS"

How to avoid being taken by this scam

See this page for a detailed explanation of how the scam works and what to do to avoid being taken.

How to Avoid Having Your Checking Account Being Used by a Scammer

One of the reasons the phony check scams are often so successful is the scammers steam checks and checking account numbers of real accounts then use them to make the phony checks.  Because the account numbers are real, the banks often don't catch the scam at first.  The names are only matched with the account numbers later, when the real account holder gets the cancelled check. There are some simple steps you can take to avoid having your account used by a scammer:

  1. Print your own checks as you need them. If you print your own checks, you can avoid this completely. You can print some cheap checks at this company's printing service for both personal and business checks.
  2. Get a locking mailbox. Since most checks are mailed to your home, scammers steal them from your mailbox. Home Depot and Lowes sell locking mailboxes.
  3. If you have your checks ordered through your bank or credit union, don't have them mailed to your home; tell them you want to pick them up at the bank.
  4. Use Secure Check Stock When ordering new checks, select the designs with all of the following security features that are available:  Copy Void Pantograph, Zoom Micro printed border, Chemically reactive Check Paper, Water Marks.
  5. Control access to checks Keep your blank checks in a locked place, deposit mail containing checks directly in a government mailbox, shred old checks, don't carry your check book with you.
  6. Use electronic bill payment through your bank, credit union or the payee. is another good bill paying service.
  7. Use credit cards instead of checks.
  8. Review your bank statements carefully!

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