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Fake Cashier's Checks - Don't Be a Victim
Many of us have always said "Hey, it's a cashier's check, no need to worry." Wrong. Cashier's checks have
always been treated as if they are as good as cash, but that's not a sure thing anymore. Scammers are using
phony cashier's checks to take advantage of our trust. Unfortunately, the trickster is not often caught and
individuals and businesses suffer the loss. This means that all of us, individuals and financial institutions, must
change the way we do business With cashier's checks.
How does this fraud happen? Theses scammers are using PC's and scanners to make these counterfeit checks. In
many cases, the fraudster has gone into a bank or credit union, gets a legitimate cashier's check and then uses a
scanner to copy it on to a computer. With the help of sophisticated printing software, the scanned copy can be
altered, payable to anyone, for any amount.
When you advertise an item for sale, such as a car or piece of equipment, you may place an ad in the local
newspaper or on a popular Internet site such as e-bay or Craig's list. Let's say you offer to sell your car for $5,000, a
fair price. You make a deal With a buyer (many times via e-mail), you receive a cashier's check and the buyer takes
the item. You head to the credit union to deposit the cashier's check. At some point, you will be using the money for
other things, perhaps a down payment on another car. A week later, the credit union calls and says that the
cashier's check has been returned unpaid because it is a counterfeit. You have a negative balance in your account
and you do not have your car. You have been a victim of a scam and have lost $10,000.
A nastier version of the same scam has the buyer giving you a $7,000 cashier's check for the $5,000 car. The buyer
tells you that he already had a cashier's check for $7,000, but he trusts you to send him back the extra $2,000. You
think the buyer must be legitimate - after all he is trusting you to give back the extra $2,000. You deposit the $7,000
check, sign over the title, and send the buyer $2,000 in cash. A week later the cashier's check is returned as
counterfeit, and now you have lost $12,000.
What can you do to protect yourself? Call the financial institution that issued the check and verify that they issued
the item. The financial institution should be able to verify the amount, payee, date issued and the signature on the
front of the check. Don't use the information printed on the check to contact the financial institution. Use a phone
book or Internet search to locate the phone number. Don't sign over the title or release goods to a buyer until you
have verified the check. To be really sure, after depositing the check, wait at least 15 business days. Contact your
credit union to see if the check has been returned before releasing sold goods or signing over ownership. If you can't
confirm that the item was issued or that the check has cleared, consider cancelling the transaction. For local
transactions, consider meeting the seller at their financial institution, and have the bank or credit union give you the
check directly. That way you can be assured that it is real.
Remember that genuine cashier's checks are as good as cash, but the fake ones can look just like the real thing. If
you think that you have been the victim of fraud, contact the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 was
founded six years ago as a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). The
NW3C is a nonprofit organization which assists state and local law enforcement in fighting cyber and economic crime.