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Beware of Fake Check Scams

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

Update: Fake checks purported to be issued by FINRA appear to be back in circulation in 2019. FINRA fielded two calls in late February from individuals who received unexpected "FINRA" checks. The checks are counterfeit, and may arrive by special delivery and require a recipient's signature. The arrival of these checks may be linked to job search scams, though some past callers noted that there appeared to be no direct reference to a job search relationship accompanying the mailing—just a check out of the blue. We are updating and reissuing this alert to reiterate the risks of cashing unexpected checks and offer tips to avoid being a check scam victim.

We are warning the public about job-search scams in which people who respond to ads or online job postings receive checks that appear to be from legitimate companies—including FINRA. The type of job can vary—models, mystery shoppers, data entry personnel or some other type of independent worker. But one element is always the same: In each of these scams, you are sent an authentic-looking check.

In many instances, these fake checks will feature the name of a real company—although often not the company that purportedly hired you, which should be your first red flag. They also might use real account and routing numbers. In the most common version of this scam, the sender instructs you to deposit the check into your bank account and then almost immediately transfer a portion of the money to someone else. That's your second red flag. Days later, your bank informs you that the check was counterfeit and that you are liable for the amount withdrawn, usually several thousand dollars. You've been scammed—and there is usually no way to recover the money you sent to a third party.


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