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Tips to Avoid Counterfeit Check Scams

Consumer Best Practices for Online Security

What to do when you detect fraud

Tips to Avoid Counterfeit Check Scams

If someone you don't know wants to give you a check and asks you to wire some of the money back, beware! It's a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.

The Pitch. Someone offers to buy something you advertised for sale; wants to pay you to work from home or to be a mystery/secret shopper; gives you an "advance" on a sweepstakes you've supposedly won; or offers to compensate you for agreeing to have millions of dollars transferred from a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.

Finding the Bait. Scammers scan newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. Some scammers place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. Still others place random phone calls or send emails or faxes, hoping to get a bite, or befriend someone in an Internet chat room.

Out of the Country. Scammers often claim to be in another country, explaining that it’s too difficult or complicated to send the money directly from their country, so they'll arrange for someone in the U.S. to send you a check.

Send the Money. You’re asked to deposit the check once you receive it, then wire a portion of the check to them or another location. If you're selling something, they may say that someone in the U.S. who owes them money will send you a check, however it will be for more than the sale price of the item you’re selling; they’ll ask you to deposit the check, keep what is owed you, and wire the rest to them. If it's part of a work-at-home scheme, you may be asked to ‘process’ checks from their clients, meaning you collect checks, deposit them in your personal account, and wire the funds, minus your ‘pay’ to the company. Or, they may send you a check for more than your pay ‘by mistake’ and ask you to return the excess by wire transfer. If it’s part of the mystery shopper/secret shopper offer, they may ask you to ‘test’ a business’ wire transfer services, like Western Union or Money Gram transfer, as well as making purchases at Wal-Mart, Gap, and Old Navy. In the sweepstakes and foreign money offer variations of the scam, they tell you to wire them money for taxes, customs, bonding, processing, legal fees, or other expenses that must be paid before you can get the rest of the money.

Fake Checks Look Real! In fact, they look so real that even bank tellers may be fooled. Some are phony cashier's checks and others look like they're from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has counterfeited the checks without their knowledge. You are responsible and liable for any checks you deposit or cash that turn out to be counterfeit, even though your financial institution has made the funds available.

Never wire money to a stranger. There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. Legitimate companies would never ask you to use a money transfer or delivery service to send cash to them or anywhere else, for any purpose.

When in doubt. If you receive a check that you’re not sure is legitimate, contact the bank. We can assist you in determining if the check is valid and suggest options to help you protect your money and account. 

Consumer Best Practices for Online Security

Internet criminals continue to design new and more deceptive ways to steal personal information and money from consumers. As a Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank customer, we want to help you reduce your risk of falling victim to fraud.

Following are some of our most often shared tips for staying safe online. Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank recommends that all customers who access and conduct transactions online through banking and other banking-related websites take the following measures to help protect themselves from loss. And please remember, you are your best defense against fraud!

Avoiding Fraud & Protecting Privacy

Some general tips from FDIC Consumer News.

  • Use Internet passwords that would be difficult to guess. For logging in, use strong passwords that include unusual combinations of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols, and then change them regularly. Don’t use family or pet names, addresses, birth dates, or other words that could be easily guessed or gathered via the internet and social media.
  • Never provide personal information in response to an unsolicited text message, email, telephone call or letter asking you to “update” or “confirm” personal information. For example, your bank won’t contact you to confirm your bank account number or password, because it already has that information. If you receive an unsolicited request for bank account information and are not sure if it’s legitimate, use a number you know to be true and call the bank directly to verify its authenticity.
  • Beware of an incoming email or text message that asks you to click on a link. It may install malicious software, called “malware,” that could allow crooks to spy on your computer or mobile device and gain access to your online banking or other banking-related websites.
  • Be especially careful when using social networking sites. Fraudsters can use these sites to gather personal information about you, such as your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, and family names that can help them figure out your passwords. These criminals may also pretend to be your ‘friends’ or relatives and trick you into sending money or divulging personal information.
  • Assume that any offer that seems “too good to be true,” especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company, is probably a fraud. Con artists often pose as charities or business people offering awards, jobs, or other opportunities. Be careful if you’re being pressured to make a quick decision and you’re asked to send money or provide bank account information before you receive anything in return.
  • Be on guard against fraudulent checks or electronic money transfers. One of the biggest scams involves a transaction in which strangers or unfamiliar companies send you a check for more than you are due and then ask you to wire back the difference. If the check is fraudulent, you could lose a lot of money. If you are asked to wire money to someone you don’t know, chances are it’s a scam. 
  • Always review your bank statements and credit card bills as soon as they arrive. Report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge, to your financial institution.
  • Treat your personal financial information like gold. Keep bank and credit card statements, tax returns, old credit and debit cards, and blank checks out of sight. When it’s time to toss away these sensitive documents, shred them first. 
  • Periodically review your credit reports to make sure an identity thief hasn’t obtained a credit card or loan in your name. Experts suggest that, to maximize your protection, you request a free copy from each of the nation’s three major credit bureaus (their reports may differ) but spread out the requests during the course of the year. For more information and to request a report, go to

Protect Yourself From Phishing

Be suspicious of emails that you aren’t expecting. Never open attachments included with emails unless you know the sender and were expecting the message. Be especially wary of emails purporting to be from a financial institution, government department or other organization and requesting account information, account verification or banking access credentials such as usernames, passwords, PIN codes and other personal information. Opening file attachments or clicking on web links in suspicious emails could expose your computer to malicious code that could hijack your computer. When in doubt, DO NOT OPEN.

Consider these three rules when dealing with email:

  1. STOP – Ask yourself, do you know this person? Was I expecting it? Does the address make sense?
  2. THINK - Before downloading pictures, ask yourself, is this from an address I normally get email from? Do I even need the picture?
  3. CLICK - Before clicking on a link or an attachment consider, remember Rule #1…if you are expecting the email, hover over the link and see where it is really linking to; it may not link to the same place that is displayed in the message. 

Home PC Security
  • Install commercial antivirus software on all computers you use to conduct secure transactions, and update that software regularly. Free software will not provide the same level of protection against the latest threats as will products commonly available in the market today.
  • Ensure that your computers receive necessary, periodic updates, particularly to the operating system, key applications, and third party applications like Adobe, Java and Flash Player, to name a few.
  • Install malware/spyware detection programs. Commercial antivirus programs alone are not sufficient to protect your systems from professional hackers.
  • Update malware/spyware programs regularly.
  • Never access bank, brokerage or other financial services information at internet cafes, public libraries, etc. Unauthorized software may have been installed to trap account number and sign on information, leaving the customer vulnerable to possible fraud. 
  • Before entering a user code and password for any online banking at any website, verify that it is a secure session (https not http).

Password Security
  • Create a strong password with at least 8 characters that include a combination of mixed case letters, numbers and special characters whenever possible. Then, change your password often. 
  • Use a different password for each website that is accessed. 
  • Never give your username or password to others, including someone purporting to be from a financial institution or other trusted company.
  • Avoid using automatic login features that save usernames and passwords for online banking. 
  • Always log out of secure sites when done and before leaving your computer unattended to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts or other information.

Detect Fraud? Call us!

We encourage all WGSB customers to take advantage of the many internet and mobile banking services we offer to monitor account balances and activity, and detect fraud fast. If you notice activity that doesn’t look right, call us right away, so we can take steps to protect your accounts. During regular business hours (Mon-Fri: 8AM-5PM), call 800-564-2735. For lost, stolen or compromised cards, go to our "Report Lost or Stolen Card" page on this website for 24/7 support.