Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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Counterfeit Cashier's Check Schemes

Consumers are cautioned to be aware of a scheme, which uses counterfeit checks in an effort to defraud Pennsylvanians. In the scam, counterfeit bank cashier's checks are offered to unsuspecting Pennsylvania consumers as payment for merchandise the consumers are selling, usually over the Internet. In most instances the sale involves a large-ticket item, such as a used car or appliance, and the sale has been posted by the consumer on the Internet, often through an online auction.

The scam begins when the consumer selling the item receives an e-mail from a "buyer" offering to purchase the goods. In many cases, the buyer purports to be from Nigeria or another foreign country and tells the consumer that they intend to make payment using an "official" cashier?s check drawn on a United States bank. The buyer then (or sometime before the transaction takes place) indicates that the check is made out for an amount sometimes thousands of dollars more than the negotiated purchase price. Often the buyer will explain the discrepancy by saying that they were given the check by a third party who owed them money. Whatever the excuse, the seller asks the consumer to return to them the difference between the purchase price and the check once the check has been cleared by the consumer?s bank. After the consumer wires the extra amount to the buyer, they learn from their bank that the check was counterfeit and that they must return the full amount to the bank.

This particular money scheme is extremely dangerous because these counterfeit checks are impressive replicas that are difficult to spot, even by the banks that are clearing and cashing the checks. Consumers should keep in mind that a bank may make money available to them almost at once if they deposit a cashier's check, but that's no guarantee that the check is authentic. Therefore, if you have any doubts as to the legitimacy of a transaction, payment or offer of payment be sure to discuss the matter thoroughly with your bank. Consumers should always use their common sense and be extremely skeptical of any e-mails from Nigeria or other foreign countries offering to purchase online items with a U.S. bank check or asking consumers to send or wire money abroad for any reason, no matter how legitimate or convincing the transaction may seem.

If you think you have been the victim of a similar scam, please contact the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at (800) 441-2555 and the U.S. Secret Service at (202) 406-5850 or write to: U.S. Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 950 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20223.