Check Fraud Up As High Quality Printer Prices Drop

With high-quality printers are widely available at the consumer level, check counterfeiting is on the rise, usually in conjunction with “advance fee scams,” where someone is tricked into cashing an overpayment of some sort and then sending the remainder to another address, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Then by some machination or another, the overpayment turns out to be fraudulent and the scammer vanishes. The image above shows various security features to look for when evaluating a check’s verisimilitude.

Check fraud getting high tech [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]


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  1. timmus says:

    I’m not understanding something in this whole racket. What is the sense in printing a counterfeit check, which is clearly illegal, then asking for a check which leaves a paper trail that leads, ultimately, to the person who cashed it? Unless they’re just counting on the police not investigating? Still it sounds like a really risky way to make money.

  2. @timmus: Check Cashing on the corner never fails…

  3. Ben Popken says:

    @timmus: The article says the police don’t usually investigate unless the sum is large or they have very strong leads on the perp’s identity.

  4. bbbici says:

    Can’t happen up here in Canada. We only have a half-dozen bank brands.

  5. PlanetExpressdelivery says:

    Checks are sent by scammers during a part of the advance fee scam or the 419 scam. The supposed authenticity of the check is designed to throw off the recipient who is none the wiser until the check sounds the alarms at the bank. These fake checks are not designed to be cashed, they’re designed to fool naive people into having a false sense of security.

  6. gibsonic says:

    people still write checks? :) j/k

  7. nweaver says:

    Actually, a lot of them ARE designed to be cashed.

    The classic Craigslist scam:

    “Here is a check for X, even though your item only costs Y. Pay for the shipping and then send me the remainder with the item”.

    Thus it does need to clear the bank teller (and it often does), it only gets caught days+ later when the routing is determined to be invalid, the account doesn’t exist, or some other feature.

  8. nweaver says:

    And by check, I mean “Cashier’s Check”

  9. Buran says:

    I once had $800 in check printing supplies charged to my credit card.

    I filed chargebacks and cancelled the card.

    The insult was when the company that charged the card refused to tell me what was bought WITH MY OWN CARD claiming PRIVACY REASONS. Bull-fucking SHIT, it’s MY OWN CARD.

    Assholes like them make my blood boil.

  10. loreshdw says:

    This issue has made cashier checks pointless. I was getting a mortgage through my bank for part of the cost of my house, with a down payment “gift” from my parents. The mortgage specialist told me to get the money into my account before the closing date, so I took a large cashier check to my bank 4 days before closing. I naively thought a cashier check was still as good as cash. I show up for closing to buy another cashier’s check (required by the title company), but the bank told me the previous check had not cleared and I had to wait a week. I asked the teller why, and she said because all checks take a week to clear. I said then why not use a personal check, why pay for a cashier’s check, if they are now the same? She answered “because you don’t want to carry around a lot of money”. Huh?

    It escalated up to the manager as I panicked while waiting around and getting later and later for my closing. Finally I said the magic words, “but my mortgage is through your bank”. Someone called my mortgage specialist who was already wondering why we weren’t there yet. She authorized the check, we closed on the house, everybody was happy. But I will never bother with a cashier’s check again for anything personal, only if it is required. (such as the by title company) If someone doesn’t take personal checks, I might as well use cash.

  11. jmschn says:

    @Buran: boil baby boil…

  12. jmschn says:

    Cashier’s checks are usually for Title Companies (or even just a wire transfer) or for Apartment Communities when they need their security deposit. Usually something that is a guaranteed collateral that you can’t get from a personal check as funds in the account are questionable.

  13. Buran says:

    @jmschn: I wish they would.

  14. valthun says:

    @Buran: Actually thats correct. An item may have been paid by your card where you are not the actual purchaser. They will not release the buyers name due to privacy issues. However what you can, and should do, beyond issuing the chargeback, is contact the police. But they will not and should not release the buyers info, for fear of vigilantism.

  15. gorckat says:

    Cashier checks also have the handy feature of debiting your account immediately, making it pretty much impossible to bounce your rent/car/veryimportantbill check.

    Useful as a tool for those vague about their money.

    Assuming you can get it for free and the bank makes a copy for your own records, of course (which my credit union does).

  16. Buran says:

    @valthun: Excuse me, but if you use MY CARD you are not entitled to privacy. Don’t lie to me and claim that’s why you’re not telling me.

    Don’t want me to demand to know who you are, USE YOUR OWN CREDIT CARD!

  17. Buran says:

    @valthun: You have no right to privacy when you’re using my card. Want privacy? Use your own.

  18. mac-phisto says:

    @timmus: in advanced fee scams, the scammer doesn’t normally ask for a check in return. they send you a bum check & ask you to wire money via western union.

    why people still fall for these boggles my mind.

  19. tadowguy says:

    Last time I tried to pay with a check, I had to leave a sperm sample. Who the hell uses checks anymore? Its a total pain.

  20. gibsonic says:

    @tadowguy: prostitutes take checks?

  21. GearheadGeek says:

    @valthun: Y’know, this is one of the areas in which I agree with Heinlein. He never mentioned credit card fraud specifically, but in several novels wrote about ways in which society could deter crime with more immediate penalties. If people considering identity theft, credit card fraud, con jobs, etc. EXPECTED vigilante reprisals, they might think twice, or even come up with some legitimate way to support themselves.

  22. enm4r says:

    @tadowguy: I pay rent with checks, it’s the only thing they accept.

    I also donate to charity with a check, easier to document. So yeah, I use about 13 checks a year, and as far as I’m concerned that’s about 12 too many.

  23. ATTSlave says:

    @Buran: I think everything makes your blood boil.

  24. Buran says:

    @ATTSlave: I don’t live in a vacuum, thank you very much.

  25. ATTSlave says:

    @Buran: A vacuum doesn’t cause your blood to boil. From NASA’s ask an astrophysicist: []

  26. miryam says:

    I encountered a wave of check fraud during a holiday season working at a bookstore. The belligerent customers would totally fly off the handle and make wild accusations (racism, classism, etc) when we wouldn’t take their checks that had typos on them.

    “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know what a ‘bnak’ is.”

    There was also one check that somehow got accepted by someone (not me) from a “bank” located in Pennsylvania, PA.

  27. jwissick says:

    I have more than 1.2 million dollars in fake checks, money orders, gift checks, etc that were sent to me by scammers.

    Lots of these checks are printed on check stock that is sold any any office supply store. Some are VERY convincing. Some are pitiful.

    Lots are drawn on REAL accounts. They are checks stolen from somewhere then they take the real account info from teh check and send out fakes with the real info…..

    Some even have thermal ink that changes color or vanishes when you touch or blow on it… this is a security feature that many companies use…

  28. Swirly says:

    Other general tips:

    Checks that are not professionally printed, i.e. printed on check stock purchased at an office supply store, will usually have a box around one of the MICR numbers on the left.

    Make sure the check number matches with the MICR number on the bottom.

    Look at the MICR numbers to see if they were scratched out. Example: An 8 is now a 6.

    Look closely at the fonts, alignment, etc.

  29. palaste says:

    @tadowguy: That must make it damned hard for chicks to pay with checks.

  30. @palaste: We have to give a pint of blood and a hair sample.

    @tadowguy: In most cases when I need to write a check I know about it long enough before hand that I can use billpay (like rent). That way I’m able to “write” a check without someone demanding all my personal identifying informaiton be on it.

    The few cases that don’t fall into the ‘most’ group are the few days I endured after I lost my debit card.

  31. RoCJester says:

    Hope they have Frank Abagnale on the case!

  32. Plasmafire says:

    The routing numbers on the bottom of your checks are made with a special magnetic ink, and if you take a strong magnet to the bottom of your checks you can make it so most check readers won’t be able to read your checks. If these bogus checks aren’t automatically reading into their computers.. they may want to check if they are fake checks. Also I reccomend investing in checks that have metallic or reflective ink printing on them or integrated holograms, at least it will make it easier for you to prove to your bank that the checks were fakes.