Counterfeit SCCU Teller Checks
In recent months, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of counterfeit checks (including teller/cashier's checks) attempting to clear at SCCU branches.
Counterfeit check scams frequently follow this scenario, particularly with online classified sites such as Craigslist: A buyer wants to purchase a product and offers to use a cashier's check. At the last minute (for whatever reason), the buyer writes the check for more than the purchase price, and then asks the seller to return the difference in cash or by wire transfer. The seller deposits the check and wires funds back to the buyer. By the time the check from the buyer bounces, the seller is already liable for the entire amount.
SCCU's branches, Member Service Center, and Accounting department are aware of these counterfeit checks and are on the alert. To help protect yourself from fraud, we have provided the following Tips for Recognizing and Avoiding Fake Check Scams:
- Know who you are dealing with. In any transaction, independently confirm the buyer's name, address, and telephone number. Do not wire-transfer any funds from a check or money order back to a buyer if you do not know the buyer personally.
- If the check looks fake or you are not convinced, contact the issuing bank to verify the check is legitimate, take it to your nearest SCCU branch, or contact our Member Service Center (option 5):
- Do not accept a check for an amount larger than the purchase price for goods or services. Ask the buyer to write the check for the exact amount of the purchase. If the buyer insists on sending you a check for a higher amount, do not continue with the transaction.
- If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn from a local financial institution, or a local branch to make it easier to confirm the legitimacy of the payment.
- Resist any pressure to "act now." Wait until the check is cleared. You might not have to wait long to have access to the money, but that doesn't mean the check is good. Many financial institutions will make a deposit available quickly; but just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it's a cashier's check. It can take weeks for fraud to be discovered and the check to bounce.
- Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize, lottery, or gift.
- See if the check looks real. Here are some tips to spot a fake check:
- Edges: Most legitimate checks have at least one perforated or rough edge. If all edges are smooth, the check may have been printed from a personal computer.
- Bank logo: A fake check often has no bank logo or one that's faded, suggesting it was copied from an online photo or software.
- Bank address: No street address, just a P.O. box or a wrong zip code indicate a fake check.
- Check number: If there is no check number at the upper right-hand corner, or the number doesn't match the check number in the MICR line, you have a counterfeit check.
- Amount: Many counterfeit checks are for less than $5,000 as checks of this amount typically are made available quickly to depositors. This can make you think that the check has cleared when in fact it is fraudulent.
- Paper: Counterfeit checks are often lighter than the paper stock used for authentic checks. They also may feel slippery.
- Signature: Counterfeit checks are generally "signed" by one or two bank employees, or feature a facsimile (electronic) signature of a financial institution's chief executive officer or other senior official. Stains or gaps around signatures, a digitized appearance, or many up or down pen strokes indicate a counterfeit check.
- MICR line: The bottom of every real check has a series of digits in a special font, representing the bank routing number, the account number, and the check number, generally in that order. That special font is known as MICR, which stands for magnetic ink character recognition. These numbers can be read by specialized check-sorting machines. Real magnetic ink looks and feels dull to the touch. Fake MICR numbers are often shiny.
- Routing number: Typically, the first nine digits of the MICR line make up the routing number, which identifies which bank issued the check. A check with no routing number or fewer than nine digits is clearly a fake. You can verify routing numbers by going to the Federal Reserve Financial Services website.
- If the routing numbers check out, go ahead and deposit the check. However, do not send your product, and do not spend the money until the check clears.
- If the check clears, then send the product and spend your money. If the check does not clear, and it has been proved that it is a counterfeit check, report it to the National Consumers League's (NCL) Fraud Center at www.fraud.org. That information will be transmitted to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
- Let people know about these scammers and try to expose their company, names etc. to everyone you know.
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