Counterfeit Check Scams 101

One of the largest frauds to U.S. consumers are counterfeit check scams. These scams originated several years ago in Nigeria where corruption and lack of law enforcement have created a safe haven for this type of activity.  Organized crime groups in Nigeria employ hundreds of people who work long hours in public Internet cafes scamming U.S. citizens.  These groups are pulling in millions of dollars annually from unsuspecting victims overseas.

Originally, these groups would contact their victims via a letter or fax, and then lure them to their country where they would kidnap them and hold them for ransom.  Now with the availability of computers and Internet access, things have become much easier.

Some of these groups have left Nigeria to work in other parts of the world such as the U.K. and Canada.  Many other foreign organized crime groups have also copied these scams originally developed by the Nigerians.

In addition to the danger of receiving counterfeit checks as part of these scams, we also need to be aware of another very real threat.  Personal and Business consumers who deal with individuals or companies located outside the U.S. are at risk of having their account information compromised and used to create counterfeit checks that are sent to unsuspecting victims.  Scammers who work in their mail rooms, make photocopies of checks received from U.S. companies.  These copies are then used to create counterfeit checks.

While there are common types of check scams, there are no hard, fast rules.  The scams are always evolving with new twists.  Motor City’s management and staff are alerted to unusual circumstances and may ask questions of you, the member.  We have seen counterfeit check fraud and do not want you to become a victim.

Common scenarios where consumers receive counterfeit checks
While the scenarios in which the victim is roped in are different and often change and evolve, the final part of these scams are all the same.  The victim receives a counterfeit check and is asked to forward the funds outside of the U.S. via Western Union, Money Gram or some other money transfer service:

  • Nigerian 419 Scam-This is the original scam from which all the others have been developed.  The victim will receive a letter, fax or email from  someone claiming to be a high level government official from a foreign country.
  • Inheritance Scam-The victim will receive a letter, fax or email from someone overseas, informing the victim that a long lost relative has died or been killed.
  • Internet Auction Scam-These involve a lower dollar amount and new technology allows it to have a much higher percentage of success. The winning bidder contacts them to arrange payment, but there is a catch.
  • Lottery Scam-This is now the most popular of counterfeit check scams, probably because of the high level of success that the scammers have with it.  It is also very difficult to detect because the checks are usually a lower dollar amount under $3000 in most cases.
  • Work from Home Scam-The scammer places ads on job search sites or replies to those who post job wanted ads.
  • Charitable Organization Scams-They will surf the message boards of Christian organizations and gain the trust of unsuspecting victims.
  • Lonely Hearts Scam-This is the saddest of all the counterfeit check scams.  The scammers surf personal ads or matchmaking websites for unsuspecting victims.  They befriend someone and become involved in a cyber relationship.

Counterfeit Check Verification Numbers

If you suspect you have been a victim or have been contacted by a counterfeit scam, please call us or one of the following numbers.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it mostly likely is.

Motor City Co-op Credit Union

Contact our office immediately (586) 228-8484

Traveler’s Express

(Some Travelers Express items will say “Payable Through U.S. Bank, St. Paul MN” in the bottom or upper left  hand corner)
Cashier’s Checks: 800-323-6873
Money Orders: 800-542-3590

Integrated Payment Systems (IPS)

Cashier’s/Official Checks and Money with 9 digit serial #:  800-223-7520
Money Orders with 11 digit serial #:  800-999-9660

U.S. Postal Service Money Orders:


U.S. Treasury Checks: