July 26, 2017

Cyber Scams: Avoiding Check and Wire Fraud

The internet has become a common place for consumers to buy and sell goods and services. A simple post to Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace takes only minutes and can earn you money for anything from a handmade barn wood table to an old wedding dress, side jobs, and much more.

Technology is convenient, but it comes with risk. Criminals have found ways to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers and their tactics continue to become more deceptive. Whether you have an established e-commerce business or are selling items to de-clutter your home, it is important to know how to protect yourself from fraud.


A growing scam is for fraudsters to pay for online items with fraudulent checks. To accomplish this, the scammer will contact the seller and insist on purchasing the item with a cashier’s check. The buyer will try to rush the purchase and encourage the seller to deposit the check. Often these checks are written for more than the seller is asking for, so the buyer will direct the seller to return the excess money in cash, wire transfer, or Western Union – immediately making money for the criminal.

How do you know if a cashier’s check for payment is legitimate?
With advances in technology, fraudsters can forge realistic-looking checks in their basements. While it can be difficult to tell, there are several things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Never accept a check for more than the amount you requested.
  • Take a close look at the check. Are there signs that could indicate a fake check such as incorrect spelling or missing security features?
  • Only do business with local buyers.
  • Insist on a different payment method if it looks suspicious.
  • Meet your buyer at the financial institution and observe the transaction. Watch them get the cashier’s check from the banker.
  • Never share your bank account information.
  • Verify funds on any check or money order. Call the bank that the check is drawn on to verify the check if you are uncertain. Call a number you look up and do not use a phone number printed on the check.


Scams are constantly evolving. Here are a few common ones to be aware of today:

Scammers will offer to buy an item you are selling, pay for services in advance, rent housing, give you a “special deal” on merchandise, or hire you for a job.

Secret/Mystery Shopper
The scammer will hire you to work from home or be a secret shopper. Victims receive fake cashier’s checks as a starting bonus, but are asked to cover the “account activation fees”. The criminal hopes to receive the activation fee prior to the check clearing.  Victims are also given cashier’s check to deposit into their account and instructed to go to a specific store, evaluate the service level, spend a specific amount of money, and then wire the remaining cash back to a third party.

Foreign Lottery or Inheritance
Scammers will send a letter stating that you won a foreign lottery or inherited someone’s estate. Victims are instructed to claim their lottery winnings or inheritance but first must pay the taxes and fees associated with the transaction. A fake cashiers’ check is provided to cover the fees and the victim is instructed to wire the money back.


  • The buyer is rushing you.
  • They insist on paying by Cashier’s Check.
  • They wrote the check for more than you asked.
  • They ask you to return the excess funds via cash or wire.
  • They ask you for personal information that isn’t necessary for the transaction.

If you have a bad feeling about a situation, seek guidance from a trusted professional right away. Your local police department or financial institution will work with you to figure out what is going on and what to do next.

Call us at 855.876.1500 or visit your nearest Fortifi Bank location. We’re here to help.

Live Chat

Live Chat