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Avoid this Fake Check Scam (2024)

Avoid this fake check scam

It’s all too easy to hear about someone being scammed and think - Wasn’t it obvious something was off? Especially as scammers become more and more savvy. We can confidently say from experience that these common trademark scams look real. Real enough that a Google search was necessary before deciding to throw the mail in the trash. And now, we’ve come across another business scam to warn you about: a fake check scam.

How the Scam Works

With this scam, a new lead decides they’d like to work with you, they agree to the total project cost, and they let you know that they’d prefer to pay by check. As this is a common payment method in many industries, there aren’t any red flags yet, right?

They write the check, send it to you, and you open it to discover - wow! They didn’t just pay the deposit, but the entire project fee up front. It feels like a huge win for your bank account, and maybe you even send them an email thanking them for paying the entire fee up front. 

Or, maybe you don’t. But regardless, they come back and say they realized they didn’t need to pay in full yet, and if possible, they’d really love the difference back for now. Disappointing, yes, but surely not the end of the world, right? You’ll still get the money - just later in the project. 

So, you deposit the check in your account and then write them a check for the difference. The problem? Banks will often credit you the amount of a check, even before it’s officially cleared. Meaning that it mayseem like all is fine, when in reality, the check they wrote was bad and won’t actually end up going through. 

Meaning that you now don’t have any of their money. And if you’ve already sent them the difference, you’re actually out that amount of money completely; without the client on the line for their payment. 

All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem so hard to understand how someone can get drawn into a scam. So what should you look out for?

Fake Check Scam Red Flags

One: A check with a higher amount than expected. 

Even if that check is within the range of the final project total, you’ll want to be vigilant if you’ve received an overpayment. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some people out there that truly prefer to just pay by check and pay in full. Just that you’ll want to ensure the check actually clears in your account before you start any work for that client.

Two: Offering or agreeing to a project cost that’s a bit high, too easily. 

Again, that’s not to say that you’ll never have clients that won’t blink at your project costs. In fact, as you discover who your ideal client is, you’ll likely have that happen often. Alone, this isn’t a red flag, but together with the others, it could be the sign of a problem.

Three: Asking for a partial refund.

The biggest of all of these red flags - if the client pays you and then requests a partial refund, you’ll want to be on high alert. Now that you know about this fake check scam, you know that you should wait to make sure the check is fully in your account before initiating any refund - therefore not accidentally giving away any of your hard earn cash.

The bottom line? Getting paid by check is definitely a viable option for your work and how you accept payments. We simply want to encourage you to be cautious if doing so. Make sure that any check you deposit is completely cleared before “returning” overpayments, and even before starting any work.

And if you’d like to simply find another route for accepting payments? This blog post details the pros and cons of common payment processors.

Amanda Warfield
Amanda Warfield

Amanda Warfield is a simplicity-focused content marketing and launch strategist, author of the book Chasing Simple Marketing, and host of Chasing Simple - a podcast to help creative entrepreneurs uncomplicate their marketing and business. She traded in her classroom lesson plans for speaking and educating creative entrepreneurs on sustainably fitting content marketing into their business, without it taking over their business - so that they have time to grow their business.

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