Always Look A Gift Check In The Mouth

Fred writes:

My brother who is a junior at college sent out a bunch of applications for college grants and other sources of funding to pay for his education. Late this summer he received a check in the mail sent to him from one of the organizations that he sent an application to. The check wasn’t huge, but the $3500 would come in handy, and certainly would have been a huge help in paying for his books, and housing. When the check actually came in the mail it was just a check, nothing else, no letter of congratulations, explanation or anything else telling him why he had received the money…

I told him he should open up a new bank account so that if it was a fake check, any possible thief’s would not get his information and take the rest of the money from his account. He just found out that I was right. He got a phone call from the bank (Wachovia) letting him know that the check was a fake, and that his account (which only contained the money from that one check) was closed due to fraud. They also told him that he has been reported to the FBI, and that the information would be noted on his credit report.

He wasn’t really able to get any clear answers from the bank which more or less gave him a corporate run around by not answering anything. I was wondering if it would be a negative thing on his credit report, or if it is just a fraud notice that was placed there. If it is a negative mark against him what can he do to get it removed. Also what are the possible
damages he could face if it was actually fraud.

First off, I hope your brother didn’t take any money out of the account, otherwise he’s going to have to pay it back.

He should check out his credit report to see what if anything got reported – annualcreditreport.com lets you check all your credit reports for free. I think the only thing they would put there is that his account was closed. If money was taken out, then the report will show that the account was closed in the negative. That will be a “minus” on the credit report, and not something that your brother will be able to dispute and get taken off.

I’m surprised the check didn’t come with a letter requesting that a portion of it be mailed somewhere else. That’s usually how the scam that this sounds like, advance fee fraud, operates. Maybe that part got lost in the mail.

Opening a new account just for the check was half-smart, and all stupid. It would have been better to have just asked the organization for more information and make the determination from that, rather than open a checking account for a check that the two of you had a pretty decent idea could be bogus. Provided he didn’t take out any money from the account, your brother was protected in case the check turned out to be fake, but if the bank decided to be hardasses, they can press charges for check fraud against your brother. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. xkaluv says:

    The bank would report to the credit bureau that the account was closed “in negative” because the account is -$3500. They are going to send bill collectors after him for that amount… provided he took the money out of the account.

  2. DrGirlfriend says:

    Sorry if this question is daft, but why do banks always go after the person depositing the check, and not the writer of the check? It is very probable that the person depositing a fake check is not aware that it’s fake, while the person who wrote it certainly is. Wouldn’t the criminal act here originate with the check writer?

    • mike says:

      @DrGirlfriend: The history of check kiting. Rent “Catch me if you can”. Great flick.

      Most of the time, bad checks come from the depositors trying to rip off the bank. Going to a bank where you often due business is a great way to earn their trust.

      • ionerox says:

        @linus: A majority of the time, bad checks are due to “split-deposit” fraud and come from fraud rings. They steal IDs and bank info from a bunch of people, open up fake accounts at one bank with bad checks and then use checks from the fake account to get cash from a legitimate account with a stolen id (many banks will make a person deposit part of a check if the balance isn’t there to cover the full amount, but the fraudster still gets cash back). This was the most prevalent type of fraud at the bank I used to work at, if a teller doesn’t post-memo the funds going back to the fraudster- they can hit five or six banks easily in an afternoon with the same scam.

        @PinkBox: Most accounts are opened with a single check. Banks can do little to verify a check unless it’s from one of their own accounts. Call one up to verify funds and they often won’t say much about the account because of privacy laws.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @DrGirlfriend: There is no reason, beyond that it’s easier for the banks this way. You would think the bank has the responsibility to validate the check, since the person depositing it has no way to validate the check.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @Corporate_guy: banks often have no way to validate a check either – our avenues are pretty much the same as a consumer’s: we can call the bank the check is drawn on & verify that the account exists & there are funds available. THAT IS ALL (& many banks don’t even provide that service). banks don’t release any other info to other banks.

        if you are given a suspicious item, bring it to a bank & discuss it with a bank manager – they can strategize the best method to proceed & can often identify fraudulent items before you deposit them & end up in this situation.

        • Gopher bond says:

          @mac-phisto: “if you are given a suspicious item, bring it to a bank & discuss it with a bank manager”

          at which point you should be aware that they may quite possibly call the police on you.

          • mugsywwiii says:

            @testsicles:
            Wait – you think they’d call the police on a person who brought a check to them and told them he thought it was suspicious? That makes no sense. Why would someone who is trying to defraud the bank go to the manager and tell them he thinks he’s cashing a suspicious check?

            No, what he did was suspicious. Asking the bank to verify the validity of the check would not get you in trouble.

            • Gopher bond says:

              @mugsywwiii: “Wait – you think they’d call the police on a person who brought a check to them and told them he thought it was suspicious? “

              Yes, they will and you better believe it! Now, it depends on the check and circumstances I’m sure, but possession of a fraudelent check on financial instrument will often lead a bank to call the police on the person who brought it to their attention, i.e. YOU! It doesn’t mean that you will be arrested but you will need to explain the situation to the police and hopefully you can.

              • the-perfect-face-for-radio says:

                @testsicles:

                “you will need to explain the situation to the police and hopefully you can.”

                i don’t know what country you’re posting from, but here in america we have something called the fifth amendment, which provides, among other things, the right not to incriminate oneself. this right protects the innocent as well as the guilty. we also have something called the presumption of innocence, which means that you are officially presumed innocent of crime until you’re convicted, by a jury if you wish, beyond a reasonable doubt. mere possession of a dodgy check is not a crime, and generally, it is unwise to explain situations to the police unless you are the reporting party who desires them to take some sort of action.

                • Gopher bond says:

                  @the-perfect-face-for-radio: Yeah, whether you meant to or not you just explained my whole point. You have a bad check and you take it to a bank, who doesn’t buy your story and calls the police. Now what? You’ve either got to try and explain the situation or lawyer up and go through that whole rigamarole. Who wants that? Stay away from bad checks. If it’s fishy, shred it. My original advice still stands, if you take a suspicious check to a bank, be prepared to get a hassle.

                  • the-perfect-face-for-radio says:

                    @testsicles:

                    “if you take a suspicious check to a bank, be prepared to get a hassle.”

                    i respectfully disagree with you. the original poster apparently sought scholarship aid, and somebody mailed him a check. no criminal activity on his part so far.

                    opening a new account for the check was dumb. the correct course is to take it to your existing, established banker, who knows you, advise him/her of your concerns, deposit the check and wait a loooong time before accessing the proceeds, i recommend at least 90 days, then talk to the banker again after the 90 days to make sure it was kosher.

                    i never “prepare for a hassle” at my bank. the secret here is to deal from strength, not deal from fear. my bank girls are essentially my financial servants. the deal i have with them goes something like this: i will obey all laws and maintain my account balance above zero, and they in turn will obey any lawful directive i care to issue.

                    this is an attitude thing, which is one of the hardest of all things to teach. of course it helps to be a retired lawyer in my old state and a sitting (incumbent) traffic court/loose dog judge in my new state, but i believe that it can be taught to laypersons too.

                    i also acknowledge that it helps to be well-known at your bank. i am well-known at my bank for my 5-figure checking account, my rakish attire (think “homeless derelict”), my purchases of ~50 bucks worth of pennies a month so that i can steal copper (the pre-1982’s) right out of our coinage, which is perfectly legal, instead of from construction sites, which is not, and various unusual requests (rapid stock sale by their brokerage affiliate, offering a cd denominated in foreign currency, etc.).

                    consumerism is attitude. many of you were badly served in school. american public schools teach an ersatz consumerism whereby you unduly exalt brands and the amount of money you spend on them at the expense of your personal dignity and well-being. after lurking for awhile, i registered as an official consumerist.com commenter to propound a contrary (and correct) view.

                    you must learn how to project supreme confidence when dealing with banks and other service vendors. every one of you reading this is a potential king or queen if you can only get your part down good. i’m here to help the best i can.

                    • eliblack says:

                      @the-perfect-face-for-radio: …I don’t know if you’re real or a gimmick, but you’re awesome.

                      I don’t get frustrated when I deal with banks, I just adopt a “well here’s my problem, I’m just going to hang out and play with the stuff on your desk until you fix it, thanks” attitude. They do work for me, after all.

                    • Gopher bond says:

                      @the-perfect-face-for-radio: look, I’m not a nut job who thinks that it is at all likely that you’re going to get hassled about it. I absolutely think if you, 1. Are known at your bank and have a long standing relationship and 2. You are able to communicate clearly and effectively, that you will have no problems discussing the issue with your bank. My problem was the original advice just was to “discuss it with a bank first” when not to long ago, posted here, was a story about someone who did just that and had the cops called on him after being thrown to the ground by security guards.

                      All I wanted to do was to let people know that the situation has been misinterpreted by banks before and there’s a chance that things might not go all that smoothly for you, especially if you aren’t a customer, don’t communicate clearly, and have a quick temper.

                      If I ever get a check in the mail for no discernible reason, it’s going right in the shredder. I know that if it’s any amount worth any trouble, then it’s most likely a scam. Simple as that.

                • Sudonum says:

                  @the-perfect-face-for-radio:
                  You may not think this occurred in “America” since this happened in San Francisco, but check out this story:
                  [www.sfgate.com]

            • P41 says:

              @mugsywwiii: I think someone reported a year ago exactly that happened. Hi, this check is suspicious. Manager: You’re right, I’m reporting you.

              It’s stupid. Probably the safe way to do it would be to talk to the manager, get them to put in writing acknowledging you’re reporting a suspicious check and asking you to provide it to them for verification, then going back out to your car to fetch the bad check.

              I agree that the really strange part is not trying to scam the brother out of real money. Were all the places the brother applied to legitimate? (i.e. no Nigerian scholarships he found on the internet just needing a SSN?) Did the check say it was from one of the places that he’d applied to?

            • Gopher bond says:

              @mugsywwiii: “Wait – you think they’d call the police on a person who brought a check to them and told them he thought it was suspicious?”

              see:
              @P41: “I think someone reported a year ago exactly that happened. Hi, this check is suspicious. Manager: You’re right, I’m reporting you.”
              @jadenton: “Moral of the story : The banks think your a criminal. They can tell you if checks are good, but won’t for reasons of their own. “

              I can’t stress this enough, stay away from suspicious checks!

            • Rectilinear Propagation says:

              Wait – you think they’d call the police on a person who brought a check to them and told them he thought it was suspicious? That makes no sense.

              @mugsywwiii: I would agree except that it’s happened before and was a story on Consumerist.

      • madanthony says:

        @Corporate_guy:

        There are some checks that the bank doesn’t have a choice in waiting to validate – namely Cashier’s Checks. FDIC regulations require the funds to be made available in 5 days whether or not the bank has gotten the funds. That’s why scammers use them – people deposit the check, see the funds, and assume it means that the check is good, and several months later when it gets shown to be fake the bank pulls the money from their account.

    • tmed says:

      @DrGirlfriend:

      Banks deal with the person who dealt with them, then that person deals with the person who delivered them the bad check.

      That’s just how it has to work.

      Most of the time the person depositing the check is committing the fraud, anyway.

      • DrGirlfriend says:

        @tmed: I am saying that if the 2 parties (recipient and check-writer), if only one party is awrae that the check is bad it would likely be the writer. I’m not saying the recipient never knows that it’s a bad check, but I would think that if the bank is going to assume wrongdoing and alert the FBI, it would do so on the checkwriter first.

        Thanks for the responses.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      @DrGirlfriend: We know that to be the case in this incident, but why would you say that is probable in general?

    • Tank says:

      @DrGirlfriend: because that’s what the UCC says.

    • Subliminal0182 says:

      @DrGirlfriend: A lot of these scams are from other countries (Nigeria, Russia, etc). Some scammer might have gotten the bank account info (or even check printer software, a bank name, and a corporation or person to pretend to be) and tried to scam this person. It’s hard to track down fraudulent checks domestically, and international fraud, well that’s a whole another ball game. Or, say a company or person had checks stolen. It’s hard to know who stole them as these people sometimes have others’ identities as well.

      It was irresponsible and foolish for the person to open up a new bank account with the potentially fraudulent check. First off, $3500 might not seem like a large amount, but anything over $1000 in the form of a check, being deposited into a new account, is considered ‘large’. There’s usually a hold on such amounts as well (which is why most checking account minimum opening deposits are a small amount like $50, usually a person can pay cash or write a check from a local institution).

      The post doesn’t state if the person as an existing Wachovia client. If he isn’t, then it’s even more suspect from the bank’s perspective because a lot of fraud happens exactly this same way (except it involves the person spending the money).

      He’ll just get a report of him sent to the FBI, and maybe get a call from them. If he does get a call, he should calmly explain the situation and get ready to be chewed out by the investigator for accepting a check with no explanation.

      Since it’s a checking account, not a form of loan/credit, it shouldn’t show up on his credit report. If the account was charged off (which it should be, if he didn’t spend the money), he’ll get a record of ChexSystems, and he may not be able to open an account anywhere in the country until the debt is paid off.

      • Subliminal0182 says:

        @Subliminal0182: ah! damn /bold command!

      • mac-phisto says:

        @Subliminal0182: most of the scams i’ve seen 1st hand originate in canada. & many use checks drawn off a legitimate business account (legitimate until someone notices fraudulent withdrawals). business accounts are often easier to pilfer for many reasons – 1) multiple people have access to the checks, 2) there is often more activity on business accounts, & 3) these accounts are rarely reconciled (or even reviewed for accuracy) mid-statement. some businesses don’t even reconcile that often!

    • Aisley says:

      @DrGirlfriend:

      Few years ago, I remember watching a segment on “60 Minutes” with Leslie Stahl. In it she showed how each and every time the teller (different tellers and different banks)cashed the check. The checks were different each time:
      1. a signature different from that of the account holder;
      2. one account number with somebody else’s name;
      3. a post dated check;
      4. a predated check by a couple of years;
      5. a photocopy of a check; and many more.

      It is just scary how far the banks go.

  3. mike says:

    Wow…

    Scammers still use checks? Who uses those things anymore?!

    /Sarcasim

    The scam artists are getting craftier and craftier. The sad part is that they are getting better and operating faster than banks can keep up.

    • quail says:

      @linus: Not only are scammers using this bogus check thing, but semi-legitimate companies too. I haven’t seen them in awhile, but when the credit was easy I’d get a couple $300 checks in the mail with a sales pitch every year. If I’d cashed the checks it bound me to an ungodly contract with the company where they’d make triple the amount of the check back in the first year. Think it was a cell phone company or a window installer or something of that kind.

      As to the check in this story, why didn’t they at least try to look it up on the internet? My wife got a bogus check two years ago and a letter explaining it was payment for something that never occurred. Looked the thing up on the Internet and sure enough 5 people spoke about the same bogus checks on their blogs. Turned everything into the Postmaster.

  4. zentex says:

    Opening a new account just for the check was half-smart, and all stupid

    Not even 1/2 smart. He should have requested documentation from the ‘organization’ before he even thought about going to the bank.

    As it stands all he has is substantial proof that he didn’t actually commit check fraud *when* the FBI comes knocking on his door.

    IMHO

  5. mac-phisto says:

    1) have your brother sit down with the bank manager to explain the situation from his side (best advice is to have him write everything down in a letter beforehand so he keeps his story straight & submit a copy of this letter to the manager) – he should not have any type of “fraud” reported since technically he is a victim.

    2) consider having him file a police report. as i already stated – he is a victim of fraud here.

    3) have him pull his credit reports from the big 3, BUT ALSO have him check his chexsystems report (also free annually b/c of FACTA) via the info from this link –> [www.consumerdebit.com]

    this is most likely where his “fraud” will be reported & it will impact his ability to open bank accounts & write checks if he does not rectify this. MOST BANKS WILL NOT OPEN AN ACCOUNT & MAY CLOSE AN EXISTING ACCOUNT IF THEY RECEIVE NOTICE OF FRAUD THRU CHEXSYSTEMS! this is a huge red flag.

    3) stay on him to rectify this NOW (& make sure he stays on the bank to rectify this NOW). it’s in his interest not to have anything show up anywhere vs. having to clean it all up later.

  6. usa_gatekeeper says:

    Did I miss something? What did the creator of the bad check get out of this transaction?

  7. thebluepill says:

    Man.. I had no idea something like this could create such a mess.. Thanks to the Consumerist for opening my eyes to problems like this!

  8. Mfalconieri says:

    Funny ass picture.

  9. PinkBox says:

    My first thought is that it looks awfully suspicious to open a new bank account to simply cash one check.

    I would have asked the bank to verify the check before letting it anywhere near any of my accounts.

    • BeeBoo says:

      What @PinkBox: That’s what I think, too. From the bank’s viewpoint (and the FBI’s), it certainly looks suspicious. He thought the check was rotten but wanted to get the money anyway.

      I’m also not clear on how or why he applied to an organization for a scholarship that was some sort of scam.

      Some essential information is missing here, but it looks like he knew he was doing something wrong and wanted to see if he could get away with it without getting caught.

      If I had a suspicious check, I would talk to my bank and be sure not to withdraw the money until a long time (months) after it cleared.

    • theblackdog says:

      @PinkBox: You’re right that it is suspicious, that’s why many banks will hold the funds for an initial deposit for up to 10 days to make sure the check is legit.

      @mac-phisto: Thanks for the link, I haven’t had any problems occur, but I ordered a report just so I can make sure my report is clean.

    • eelmonger says:

      @PinkBox: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, it looks pretty bad for the brother to open an account just to deposit a check. So basically your brother deposited a check that you guys strongly believed was fake (as evidenced by opening up that new account), it turns out to be fake, and your brother is accused of check fraud, so you post the whole thing on the internet? From a legal standpoint that was probably a bad idea, as if they were serious about pursuing check fraud charges (I doubt they are), this post could be used against you. Please people, don’t post details about pending, or potentially pending, legal issues on the internet as it can come back to bite you.

  10. Samuelm456 says:

    Yea, I just went to that site, annualcreditreport.com, and it IS NOT FREE. I checked equifax as my credit reporter, I filled out the info..and they offered me a credit report for $7.95.

    How is that free? Do you guys have a fact checker on these things?

    • satoru says:

      @Samuelm456: Unless you’ve already requested your credit report in the past 12 months, then it should be free of charge.

      • Gopher bond says:

        @satoru: they do try to sell you some other stuff but you can decline and still get your free report. maybe he didn’t read it and only saw the $7.95 credit protection or whatever it is they try to tack on.

    • stopNgoBeau says:

      @Samuelm456: Your credit report is free, once a year, from each of the Big 3. However, your credit SCORE is not free. Just the itemized account report is free.

      On top of that, they will offer you credit protection services, etc. But you don’t have to pay anything just to see your report.

  11. satoru says:

    The only ‘free’ thing I’ve ever seen anyone get in the mail, was a stereo system. This was back in like the 80s’ and somehow my friend got sent to him a brand new, and expensive, stereo system. It was addressed to him, but his parents, nor anyone else ever took credit for buying it. It was very odd. In any case, he used it for as long as I could remember, and no one ever came looking to try and claim it.

    I have to agree with the comments, that cashing a ‘random’ check is 100% foolish. These seem to fall under 2 major categories

    1) MAJOR fraud. Stuff like ‘cash this check then send us the money’ kind of thing. Ironically this falls under the category of mail fraud, so its a federal crime.

    2) MINOR fraud. These are those ‘here’s a check for $10, but don’t look on the back because then you’ll notice that you’ve just signed up for a $30/month charge’ or changing your utility provider, etc.

  12. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Annual credit report.com IS FREE, just don’t sign up for the shit that equifax, transunion, etc will TRY to get you to buy.. that’s how they make your money.

    You are entitled to one free credit report each year.

  13. jadenton says:

    I stopped doing business with Wells Fargo after I presented them with a check written by another Wells Fargo customer and asked them to check that it would clear. They basically refused, and then hit me for 20 bucks when it failed to clear. Banks CAN tell you if one of their checks is good, but they choose not to because they can slap you with a fee for trying to redeem such a check.

    A while back there was a story about a guy who went into a bank, and handed them a check from a Craigslist deal. It was a check written against their bank. He asked them to verify that the check was legit. Next thing he knows, security throws him to the ground and he is arrested. The bank decided the check was a fraud, and blamed him. He spent several thousand dollars clearing his name, and the bank is totally of the hook because they reported the “crime” in “good faith”.

    Moral of the story : The banks think your a criminal. They can tell you if checks are good, but won’t for reasons of their own.

  14. magic8ball says:

    Well, what ARE you supposed to do with suspicious checks, then? You can’t deposit them, because you risk getting hit with fraud charges; you can’t ask the bank if they’re legit, because you run the risk of getting arrested/roughed up by security; so that leaves … what? Bury it in the back yard and hope no one ever finds out that you had it?

    • tmed says:

      @magic8ball: You talk to the bank, and develop a plan. Hopefully you already have a relationshiop with the bank. they can help you call the issuing bank and check the validity. If the autorities must be involved, they can be involved earlier rather than later, and may be able to use the early info to catch someone.

    • satoru says:

      @magic8ball: If you’ve deposited it, then you can go here to file a claim. It’s a non-profit but they should be able to help out.

      [secure.nclforms.org]

      The basic thing is to destroy the check if you think it’s suspicious.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @magic8ball: listen, IANAL, but i stand by my original statement. i can’t speak for every bank – only my personal exposure (& professional opinion) on the matter. if you are unsure, bring it to the bank & discuss it with a manager. if a manager tries to have you arrested for bringing a suspected fraudulent item to their attention, then they’re just an asshole.

      understand that if the bank feels the item is fraudulent, they will confiscate it – be prepared for this.

      if you know it to be fraudulent, destroy it. don’t waste your time trying to be the good guy – the investigators are so back-logged on this crap they don’t know what to do. if, despite this information, you feel the need to proceed, determine which government agency is responsible, contact them & prepare to waste at least 1-2 hours of your time answering questions & forwarding information for an investigation that is not going to go anywhere.

    • LesterGaze says:

      @magic8ball: Destroy the check and forget about it. In a few years, go check for it at your state’s unclaimed property office (or website). Also, when checking for unclaimed property, go directly to your state office or website, and a national broker.

      • LesterGaze says:

        @LesterGaze: oops, NOT a national broker.

      • crashfrog says:

        @LesterGaze: In a few years?

        Am I the only person in this whole thread who thinks none of this advice is at all reasonable?

        I guess a number of Consumerist posters are so rich that they can just throw away money, but students applying for grants and scholarships aren’t. Certainly steps should be taken to protect oneself from check fraud but the idea that protecting yourself from fraud constitutes complicity with criminal action is absurd.

  15. JanetCarol says:

    Something similar happened to me. The check arrived DHL – nothing in the envelope – just the check.
    I called the number on the front of the DHL envelope. Looked up the name online. When I came back essentially empty handed. I checked out the bank the check was written from. I called the bank and explained the situation. She asked for the account number and told me she would call me back. The next day she called and told me that this was a fraudulent check and that the account number on the check was an account that had been closed in 01′. She then forwarded my call to their fraud department who asked me to mail the information with a letter explaining what had happened to me with my contact information in case the authorities had any further questions. I did just that. I had one more call a week later thanking me for checking into the situation before cashing the check and they asked if I had been asked to transfer money anywhere. Which I had not.

    I don’t understand this scam – they send you a check and ask for nothing?

    Plus in my case the person paid for DHL.

    it was $3,500.00 as well

    Jerks

    • RedOrDead says:

      @janetcarol: Scambaiters sometimes have scammers send fake checks in order to waste their resources. Maybe a scambaiter used your address, perhaps not knowing it was a real address?

      • Difdi says:

        @RedOrDead:

        Scambaiters sometimes have scammers send fake checks in order to waste their resources. Maybe a scambaiter used your address, perhaps not knowing it was a real address?

        I used to do that to really obnoxious telemarketers and pushy missionary types. I even had a set of fake addresses I had generated specifically for that purpose. I can’t find the list at the moment, but I do remember the way I generated them:

        The local cities and towns in my state, when planning out, numbering and naming streets, extend the grid through obstacles. Some of these obstacles are so ginormous or inaccessible, there are no streets there, and there is literally NO way anyone could build a house (or anything else) there. The bottom of a lake, the highest peak of a mountain, the middle of an airport runway, etc.

        Any time the obnoxious person on the phone demanded an address, I’d give them one from the list. I once sent three different instances of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the middle of a 500 foot deep lake. I hope they brought diving gear…

  16. SabreDC says:

    Why not call the FBI directly and provide them with assistance? Does your brother still have the envelope in which he received the check? Save it. Was the return address on the envelope from one of the locations your brother requested grants? Call your local FBI field office, explain to them what happened, cooperate and assist them in determining where you got the check. These things happen quite often, unfortunately, and I can assure you that you really don’t have anything to worry about. The FBI does investigate a lot of bank-related fraud, so they are just doing their job. Investigation does not mean you are guilty of any crime, it just means they are trying to find out what happened. Hopefully your brother kept any documentation/evidence. The FBI will most likely ask him what happened and it will end at that.

    • Gopher bond says:

      @SabreDC: “Why not call the FBI directly and provide them with assistance?”

      You want to voluntarily call the FBI and tell them you may have a fraudulent check? Are you some kind of weirdo?

      • SabreDC says:

        @testsicles: Please refrain from any name calling. I’m trying to lend assistance to the OP in a field in which I have personal experience. Your comments lend nothing to the conversation and should not be permitted under the comment code. Yes, I AM suggesting that the OP contact the FBI directly. Why would the OP have anything to worry about? HE didn’t create the fraudulent check, he is providing evidence to investigators to track down criminals. His call would be welcome.

        If you have nothing to continue other than insults, save it.

        • Gopher bond says:

          @SabreDC: I disagree and consider it foolish to contact the FBI while in possession of a fraudulent check.

          • SabreDC says:

            @testsicles: Why? Because of what you see in movies or on TV? The majority of cases are solved through community outreach, citizen assistance, and communication with other law enforcement agencies. It is far from foolish.

            • Gopher bond says:

              @SabreDC: First, there’s a difference between a fraudulent check that has been given to you for present consideration and the kind of check in this post. If you do work for someone and they give you a check and it’s on a bad account, then yes, by all means, go the bank, police, etc.

              However, if you receive a check that has not been tendered for present consideration and that you suspect may be fradulent and part of a scam, you’re best bet is to shred it and forget about unless you’re seeking a hassle. By all means, go ahead and call the FBI but don’t be surprised when it turns into a big hassle.

  17. LawyerontheDL says:

    Perhaps approaching your bank with your concerns would be a good idea. When opening up the account, they should have mentioned to the banker that they were somewhat concerned that the check may not be authentic and was there a way to certify it? I know that there is a way to check the balance on an account. However, raising a red flag early would avoid being accused of trying to pull a fast one.

  18. VeiledThreats says:

    Sadly, once you’re reported to chexsystems, getting out is nearly impossible. Even when no debt exists, you’ll continue to be reported for 5 years and it will hinder your brother’s ability to get new accounts or possibly even keep his current one. Please have him file a police report and have him dispute the entry on his Chex report. Should that fail, he can then dispute with the bank directly. They must verify or delete within 30 days just as any other CRA.

  19. Ouze says:

    “Opening a new account just for the check was half-smart, and all stupid. ” – i think if a reader put this in a comment to the story, they’d get a warning from comment moderator roz. So with all the yelling about not blaming the consumer, you need to sort of lead by example here.

  20. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    It seems like the OP and her brother caught on pretty early in the game that the check might be fraudulent…so why even open an account to deposit the check?

    If your first thought is that it seems fishy, it probably is, and you shouldn’t ignore it and acknowledge the money might just be there anyway. Your name is now associated with the chunk of fake money via a bank account. Previously, you were just a person who applied to grants and scholarships and got a possibly fake check. If the OP’s brother would have talked to the bank about his suspicions, they might have been able to help determine whether the check was fake. Maybe not, but it doesn’t seem like they tried.

  21. Gopher bond says:

    Don’t Talk to the Police
    [video.google.com]

  22. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Meh. You probably could turn it in to the Secret Service or the FBI, but will they have time to Investigate it? Probably not, and even if they did, the “fraudstars” are likely out of their jurisdiction. The banks have shown their positions time and time again. Better to just shred it, or do what some baiters do: write “fake” on it, frame it, and hang it on the wall.

  23. ika411 says:

    @[consumerist.com] As [consumerist.com] mentioned, it is free every 12 months. I just got mine last week from all three credit reporting companies through annualcreditreport.com. You will get your credit report for free with all the details WITHOUT the credit score. You will have to pay to see the score.

  24. Canino says:

    I seriously doubt he would be charged with anything. There was no intent to defraud. Even if there were a valid charge, like passing a forged instrument (which still requires actual knowledge and intent), no investigator or prosecutor would waste his time with it.

  25. AMerrickanGirl says:

    If you think the check may be fraudulent, do not deposit it! Rather than contacting your own bank, I would contact the bank on which the check is drawn, tell them that you got this check in the mail and it may be suspicious, and ask them to please verify the funds. Tell them that if it’s a bad check you will turn it in to them so they can follow up on trying to catch the perpetrators of the scam.

    Doing it this way will not land you in any legal trouble, and the bank will probably be glad for your cooperation.

    By the way, it’s a lot harder to get arrested for bank fraud than you think. The amount of work involved in putting together a fraud case and then transferring it from the bank to the police or FBI means that only the big fraud rings actually get tracked down and arrested. A $3,500 case is chump change.

  26. trujunglist says:

    I really, really, really hate blaming the OP, but in this case, uhhh… it was entirely his fault?
    The bro receives a bogus looking check, and they both are like, wow, that check looks fake. They obviously come to the conclusion that, even though there was nothing accompanying the check – like for example a letter of congratulations, they should go ahead and cash it. OP says to bro to create a new account just to cash the check.
    And somehow they wonder why the FBI would get involved for fraud and that it would hurt the bro’s credit. They KNEW what they were doing and they did it anyway!
    Seriously? This is definitely a case of blame the OP (especially because he was the one that told the bro to open a new account!) if I ever heard one.

  27. megafly says:

    I’ve never heard of a lawyer saying “I wish my client had just cooperated and told the police everything” the usually say “I wish he had kept his mouth shut”