Vol.1, No.2

how to tell if a cashier's check is counterfeit

Think that all cashier's checks are safe to accept? Find outhow to detect a counterfeit check by reading this informative article!

Counterfeit money
Photo Credit: Arlene Gee
If you've ever sold any item online, you might have taken the "safe route" and only accepted cashier's checks or money orders as payment. That way, you didn't have to worry about accepting personal checks that can bounce, right? Right. Except, cashier's checks can easily turn out to be worthless too.

This rash of counterfeit checks has stemmed from a fraudulent scam that originated in Nigeria. Basically, the scammer sends you an official looking cashier's check for the item that he or she has purchased from you. If you simply deposit the check in your bank account, and ship the merchandise, you won't know that you've been scammed until a week or so later when your bank notifies you that the check was counterfeit. Then, the situation gets worse. Because, not only were you not paid for the item, but you now owe the bank the amount of the fake monetary instrument.

Scammers usually pull this fraudulent purchase scheme on sellers of big ticket items such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, expensive computer systems, et cetera. However, since online sales and the technology regarding computer scanners have increased, counterfeit cashier's checks are now more common than ever!

By using a computer, a high tech scanner, and a real check to copy details from, a scammer can easily produce and print hundreds or even thousands of fraudulent cashier's checks!

So, how can you protect yourself from receiving a counterfeit instrument such as this? You really can't tell by just looking at a cashier's check if it's real or not. Telltale signs that a check MIGHT be legitimate is if it has at least one perforated edge. This edge is on the check because they come on a roll. If you get a monetary instrument of this type and it doesn't have a perforated edge, then you'd better BEWARE!

Also, look at the MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) numbers that are located at the bottom of every cashier's check. They should be clearly printed, uniform in size and print, and not be crooked or smeared if the check is for real.

Real cashier's checks have a microprint signature line and there is no text of any kind underneath that line.

A legitimate cashier's check has a microprint border around its four edges. It also has a watermark printed on the back. But, a scammer can easily print that on his or her homemade checks too.

Anytime you accept a cashier's check, especially if it is payment for a big ticket item, you should insist that it be drawn on your own bank. At the least, it should be drawn on a bank that is local to you. Stay away from instruments that are drawn on out-of-state banks or other financial institutions.

Then, find the name of the financial institution and their phone number on the check, (whether it's your bank or not.) Call the number and ask to speak to a customer service representative. Tell him or her that you need to verify the validity of the check.

The bank will be able to tell you if the cashier's check is actually from their financial institution.

They can also tell you how much the check was made out for, and the name of the person it was issued to.

If you find out that the check is legitimate, is made out in the correct amount, and was issued to you, then you can cash it or deposit it into your account.

Otherwise, if you find out the check is fraudulent, notify the bank and contact the local authorities.

If the bank name on the cashier's check is fake, then you should just notify the local law authorities.