Despite a rapidly changing economy and a constantly evolving banking system, personal checks don’t look all that different from how they looked 50 years ago. They represent a system of trust and goodwill. Recently, though, they’ve been used to pull off some nasty scams.

The fake check scam has several variations, but all end with the victim losing thousands of dollars.

You’ll be asked to deposit a check or money order at a branch or through a mobile deposit worth several thousand dollars more than the amount you’re supposedly owed and then wire the difference to your contact.

Of course, these checks are completely phony. Unfortunately, the time it takes for a financial process a fake check, you may have already sent the requested amount to the scammer by the time you realize the check was fraudulent, it’s too late to reclaim your money. Worse yet, you’ll be responsible for paying the fee for the bounced check. If you didn’t have sufficient funds to pay the amount you sent to the scammers and relied on their check to cover the amount, you’d also need to reimburse the financial institution for that money.

Knowing which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams is important. If you come across any of the following, run the other way and don’t look back: 

  • You’re emailed or texted a code to deposit.
  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re unfamiliar with.
  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.
  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Unfortunately, though, like all transactions that take place over the Internet, mobile banking has some inherent risks. Phishing scams targeting people over the phone can trick them into sharing login information with scammers who may hack into the account. Finally, bogus emails and messages appear to be from your credit union asking you to deposit or send money. Instances of online fraud may be climbing, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up the convenience of mobile banking.

  1. Brush up on your knowledge of scams. It’s important to keep yourself updated on the latest banking scams and to know how to recognize a scam if you’re targeted. Never answer a text or email that asks for your account details, even if it appears to be from your credit union. Finally, always be wary of unsolicited phone calls and banking alerts.
  2. Protect your phone. With the wealth of sensitive information, a smartphone should be protected just like a desktop and laptop computer. Be sure to lock your phone after using it, log out of the mobile banking app when you are done, and always keep your phone in a safe place.

If you believe you have received a suspicious email, text, or call asking you to send or receive money, please contact Member Services at 215-996-3700.