Hopefully most of you know better than to ever accept a check from a stranger, but I think it’s always good to share horror stories like this one to remind people of why it’s a bad idea. The problem is, if you deposit a check that turns out to be fake, you’re the one who will be held responsible for it. Unlike credit card theft, there’s no law or rule in place to protect you from check fraud or advance fee fraud–and your bank doesn’t want to be left holding the bag any more than you do.
Here’s Carter’s story:
Last night I sold a nice Canon HD camera to a guy on craigslist in Hollywood. He was exceedingly friendly and polite, inspected the camera and asked all sorts of questions. Afterwards he handed me a certified Wells Fargo check. I scrutinized it and it looked fine to me. Considering how the transaction went so far I moronically figured it was fine.
After he left I began to have doubts. I researched online to find evidence of scams like this but none really fit the description. Craigslist warns against Western Union and Nigerian scams but seemed to actually suggest that Certified checks from known banks are acceptable.
Still skeptical, before depositing the check I showed it to the local Wells Fargo folks. They immediately confiscated it and told me it was fake and that I should go to the cops. Apparently anyone can fake a certified check, including the watermark. The one I received was blue, but Wells Fargo actually uses a brown check. Also, Wells Fargo prints the name of the issuer in the bottom right hand corner. It was hand written on my check. Unfortunately that information is not available on the internet.