One of the common threads between many of the current scams is that at some point the scammer will send the victim a cashier’s check, money order or traveler’s check. For some reason, the check will be for more than the agreed on amount, and the scammer will ask for the victim to wire that overage back to them. For many victims this will be a red flag, which it should be, so they take the next step and take the check to the bank – but this is where the confusion often comes into play.
To demonstrate my point, ask yourself this: if you deposited a cashier’s check into your bank account, at what point would you feel safe that the check is legitimate, and that you can use the funds from it with no financial risk?
A) After 24 hours
B) In 7 – 10 business days
C) When the check clears
D) When the funds are made available
E) A and C
F) C and D
G) None of the above
If you said A, you would have become a scam victim. Many banks will tell customers that a cashier’s check is verified in 24 hours. This is what our former bank told us when we deposited the check we received. Then, one week later, they called us and said that same check was now found to be counterfeit, and we owed them the money.
If you said B, you MIGHT NOT have become a scam victim, but it is still possible. As I just stated, our former bank found out that our check was counterfeit in one week, so we would have been saved, but there are some victims I have worked with that have seen there checks come back several weeks or months later. I was once told that a check could come back 6 months later, and the account holder would still be held liable.
If you said C, you would have become a scam victim. The term “cleared” only means that the clearing house has not sent the draft back for non-sufficient funds, closed account, or flag instructions on the account. It DOES NOT mean that the draft was written by the account holder, or that the money belongs to you.
If you said D, you would have become a scam victim. When you deposit a check into your account, your bank advances you the money for that check to keep the wheels of commerce moving, you cannot spend the money until you have it – so they credit your account with what is called a “provisional loan”, which is a no-signature loan from your bank to you. This DOES NOT mean that your bank has been credited by the issuing bank.
If you said E or F, I’m sorry, I only put those in there to try and throw a few people off. Since I have already shown you how A thru D are not correct, well, two wrongs don’t make a right.
The correct answer is G, none of the above. The sad part is, the scammers know this, and they use that to their advantage. This is why these scams work so well. The scammers are using counterfeit cashier’s checks, money orders or traveler’s checks, that are so good that many bank employees cannot tell the difference. They have watermarks on them and are made on the same quality of paper, so they get passed into the system just like a real cashier’s check would. It could take weeks before the item is detected as counterfeit, and by that time it is too late for the victim.
This is why education about scams, warning signs, red flags and banking procedure and terminology are so important in the fight against internet scams.