How to Deposit a Fake Check Online [What to Do if Accidental]

Let’s picture a familiar scenario before explaining how you accidentally deposit a fake check online and what to do after that. You’re struggling with caring for your elderly family members, and out of the blue, a new job offer lands in your inbox. Things start looking up. Following the interview, your new employer even pledges to gift you a brand new laptop. You just need to deposit a check for $950 and transfer the money through a service like Zelle to someone else.

After seeing the $950 in your account, you think it’s safe to make the transfer without any second thoughts. But then, the unthinkable happens. Your bank discovers the check is fake, and it’s already too late. The full amount is removed from your account, and you are left with nothing since you had already sent your own funds to the scammer.


In this guide, we’ll take you step by step through the process of what happens when you deposit a fake check and if you’re on the hook for the money. You’ll also learn how to recognize typical check scams and what actions to take if you ever become the target of one.

How to Deposit a Fake Check Online: How it Works

How to Deposit a Fake Check Online


How the process works when you mistakenly deposit a fake check online:

  1. You can deposit a fake check online using a mobile bank app, at your bank, or at an ATM.
  2. Federal law then mandates the bank make the funds available to you within 1-2 business days, sometimes even before verifying if the account or check is genuine.
  3. Once you’ve deposited the fake check, and maybe even spent or sent some of it, the bank examines the check and discovers that it’s not genuine.
  4. The bank takes back the money from your account for the amount of the fake check, and they might even add a processing fee to it.

The Federal Expedited Funds Availability Act (EFAA) requires banks to make the money available to customers within a set time, usually around 24 hours.¹ However, it can take much longer—maybe even days or weeks—before the banks realize that the check was fake. And during this time, you might have already used the money.

Now, the trick is that a fake check scam takes advantage of this gap between when you get the money and when your bank discovers the check is fake. Someone targeting you can use familiar tricks, like sending you a check and requesting that you return some or all of the money through a bank transfer, cash, or gift card.

Unfortunately, by the time you realize that the check is fake and bounces, the scammer will have disappeared with your money. As a result, you end up losing both the money you sent to the scammer and any amount you withdrew or spent from the fraudulent check.


What Happens When You Deposit a Fake Check?

A lot of people who deposit a fake check online are innocent victims who don’t know they are being scammed. However, depositing a fake check, even unintentionally, can lead to severe consequences.²

No. What Happens When You Deposit a Fake Check
1. If you deposit a fake check unknowingly, you might need to repay the entire amount. Your bank will deduct the money, and you might be charged an extra fee for processing the fake check.
2. If you send money to a scammer, getting it back is nearly impossible. Chargebacks for fraudulent transactions are rare, and once the money is sent, it’s usually gone for good.
3. Banks may close or freeze your account if they notice suspicious activity, like attempting to deposit fraudulent checks. This practice is common to protect customers from potential scams.
4. Spending money from a fake check may lead to an overdrawn account. You might face overdraft fees, and if you miss bill payments, you could be charged late fees as well.
5. Your credit score might suffer if you deposit a fake check. Missing bill payments, because you relied on the check, can harm your credit score, as payment history significantly influences it. Even one missed bill can have a lasting impact.
6. Your banking history may be affected. If you consistently deposit fake checks, banks and credit unions might deny you the opportunity to open a checking account.
7. Depositing fake checks might lead to legal consequences, including misdemeanor or felony charges. The severity varies by state, but if you’re a victim, you’re less likely to face fines or jail time.

Is the Bank Responsible for Cashing a Fake Check?

In many situations, you may be responsible for the money received from a fake check. However, there are some cases where victims might not have to pay. To find out if you’re liable for the fake check, check your deposit account agreement, your bank’s policies on fraudulent checks, and your state’s laws. You can also contact your bank directly for more information.

What to Do if I Deposit a Fake Check Unknowingly?

If you are a victim of a fake check, do the following to protect yourself:

1. Inform your bank

Get in touch with your bank right away and report the fraud. Ask them not to penalize you for it. If you’ve already used the money from the check, try to work out a repayment plan to avoid extra charges.

2. Stop any payments

Try to stop the payment if you think the check is fake before the bank processes it. This way, you might prevent it from being cashed. Also, if someone cashes a fraudulent check in your name, the bank might freeze your account to protect your funds.

3. File a complaint

If you encounter issues with fraud, file complaints with consumer protection agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your state’s Attorney General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center (IC3).³

4. Get in touch with your creditors who might be affected

If you were planning to pay your debts with the money from the fake check, let your creditors know what’s happening. You might be able to work out new repayment arrangements and avoid late fees or other issues.

5. File a police report

If someone takes money from your account using a fake check, the bank might reimburse you, but you’ll need a report from your local law enforcement to qualify. So, make sure to report the fraud to your nearby police department.⁴

6. Keep an eye on your credit

If you’ve experienced check fraud before, it’s smart to watch your credit report, credit cards, and bank accounts for any suspicious activity. Aura’s highly-rated identity theft protection with credit monitoring can alert you quickly, up to four times faster than other companies, to help keep you safe.

How Do You Avoid Fake Checks?

Watch out for tricky scammers who use urgency to catch you off guard. To stay safe from fake check scams, always be alert. Here’s how you can spot and avoid check fraud tricks.

1. Know Common Fake Check Scams

Scammers have come up with various tricks to trick you into depositing fake checks online or at your bank. They might offer you fake jobs as mystery shoppers or personal assistants, or try to sell online goods to deceive you. Stay cautious and aware!

Just like with any scam, there are warning signs to watch out for. Always remember this golden rule of fraud prevention: if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Stay cautious!

Here are some typical fake check scams to be aware of:

Type of Scam
Overpayment Scam Scammers offer to pay more than your asking price for an item and send a personal check with the excess amount. They’ll try to convince you to refund the extra money before you realize the check is fake.
Lottery and Prize Scams Scammers claim you’ve won a big prize but ask for a fee to unlock it. They send you a check for the prize but request you to send them money to cover taxes, shipping, or processing costs.
Fake Job Offers (e.g., Mystery Shoppers) Scammers may pretend to hire you to test payment processing services. They’ll give you a check, ask you to deposit it, and transfer the money to someone else. Once you transfer the money, the scammer vanishes, and you lose your money.

2. Inspect Checks Closely

Detecting a fake check may not be simple, but you can find several clues to help you. Whenever you get a check, whether it is personal or cashier’s, take a moment to carefully inspect it for signs that it might be fake.

  • Legitimate checks have one perforated edge where they are ripped from a checkbook. If your check is smooth on all sides, it’s likely fake. Also, real checks are printed on thick paper with a matte finish. If your check feels flimsy, it’s probably fake.
  • If your check lacks a logo or displays a bank logo you’re unfamiliar with, it’s very likely fraudulent. Similarly, if the logo of a legitimate bank appears faded or copied, it’s a red flag. Also, pay attention to watermarks and other symbols or patterns on the check for signs of fakery.
  • Confirm the issuing bank’s authenticity by visiting its official website. If there’s no address or the address is a P.O. box, the check is probably fake. You can also use the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) BankFind tool, research the routing number on the check, or call the bank using the contact information on its website. But never call the phone number on the check, as it could be a scammer’s number.
  • Look for a check number in the upper-right corner and the magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) line. These numbers should match. If they don’t, the check is likely fake. Also, be cautious of low check numbers, as they might indicate a new account and a potential scam. Stay vigilant!

3. Ensure the check has been cleared before making any purchases

If the check bounces, your bank can take back the funds, even if you’ve already received them. To avoid extra charges and problems, it’s best to wait until the check has completely cleared before using the money.

  • Normally, a check clears within 1-3 business days, but sometimes it can take longer, even several weeks. If you have enough money to cover potential issues, wait 2–3 days before using the check. And if you’re not sure, waiting for 30 days is best because fake or empty checks usually bounce within this time.
  • If you really need the money, ask your bank directly. Tell them you want to know if the check has cleared. It’s important to explain that you’re concerned about the check being verified. Otherwise, the bank might think you’re asking when you can spend the money you received, which doesn’t guarantee the check has cleared.

4. Avoid Sending Money Back from Checks or Using It for Gift Cards, Crypto, etc.

In simple terms, check fraud happens when scammers trick you into sending real money in exchange for a fake check. If someone tells you to return the money through money transfer, cryptocurrency, or gift cards, they are attempting to scam you. Be cautious!

What should I do instead?

  • Don’t cash a check or money order from someone you don’t know. If they ask you to send them money back, it’s likely a scam, and the check will not be valid. You’ll have to pay the bank back if you deposit it. Stop the transaction and cut off communication right away if you suspect a scam. Try to reverse any transactions you’ve already made.
  • Make sure to report the fraud. Tell the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center), and your bank about the attempted fraud. If you’ve already lost money to the scam, check with your bank to see if there’s any way to get the money back.

5. Never take checks for more money than you were supposed to receive

When you get a check, double-check if the amount is what you were expecting. Scammers often send checks for more than the agreed amount, trying to trick you into sending back the extra money through money transfer or other methods.

Alternative Actions to Take:

  • If you think the check is fake, ask the buyer to write a new one with the right amount. Avoid depositing a suspicious check. Contact the buyer to request a corrected check. If they refuse or insist on you sending back the extra money, it’s likely a scam.
  • Don’t let them pressure you. Scammers may rush you, claiming there’s no time. Take your time and be careful before taking any action to make sure it’s safe and legitimate.

What to Do if You Were Scammed

Act quickly to protect your identity if a fake check scam has tricked you and do the following:

  • Beware of falling for another scam. Some scammers target people who have already been scammed, pretending to help recover lost funds.
  • Check your insurance coverage to see if it includes protection against check fraud. Some insurers may offer assistance with fraud recovery.
  • After notifying the authorities about the fraud, set up a fraud alert with major credit bureaus like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This step can help prevent scammers from opening new accounts in your name.


Scammers will always look for loopholes to get you to deposit a fake check online and give away your money. In the end, you get to bear the legal and mental brunt. The best solution is to protect yourself,. Start by watching out for signs of fraud and never cash unexpected checks. If you are suspicious about any transaction, always get your bank involved.


  1. Expedited Funds Availability Act (EFAA): What it is, How it Works. Investopedia
  2. What are the consequences of depositing a fake check? Credit Karma
  3. How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams. FTC
  4. Check Fraud. Fairfax County Police Department

Read alsoHow to catch someone stealing money at home

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