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Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Elder Abuse, Scam Alerts, Seniors First San Diego, Sharon Lee |

Beware Scams Involving Cashier’s Checks


As the weather cools down and the holiday shopping season warms up, consumers should be aware of new strategies and tricks utilized by scam artists. Cashier’s checks are often used by scam artists because consumers do not realize that banks give money before the cashier’s checks have cleared. If and when the cashier’s check does not clear, the victim must pay the value of the bounced check to the bank.

Mystery and/or secret shopper scams

Mystery shoppers are people who are compensated to visit businesses. They observe and measure customer service, product quality, and other details. Afterwards, they report back to a market research company or the establishment.

Although many mystery shopper jobs are legitimate, scam artists have taken advantage of victims by claiming to offer mystery shopper jobs. Some consumers have received emails offering secret shopper jobs with large retailers such as Home Depot or Walmart. The websites appear to be affiliated through the retailers. In some cases, the emails mimic the appearance of or use the name and/or logo of legitimate market research companies.

The emails require consumers to provide personal information. Consumers are informed that they will receive a cashier’s check for a certain amount. The consumers are told to deposit the cashier’s check into their bank accounts, to keep a portion as an advance payment, and to wire the rest of the money back. When the cashier’s check does not clear, the bank contacts the consumer to demand full payment.

Prize money scams

In another scam involving cashier’s checks, the victim receives a letter that he or she won a prize with an enclosed cashier’s check. The letter instructs the victim to wire a portion of the cashier’s check to pay fees and taxes and to keep the rest and the victim complies. However, several days later, the check fails to clear and the bank contacts the victim to demand return of the value of the bounced cashier’s check.

Craigslist purchase scams

Some scam artists target Craigslist sellers. A buyer may overpay for an item off Craigslist by hundreds or thousands of dollars with a cashier’s check. Once the seller receives the cashier’s check, the buyer requests that the seller wire the overpayment back. After the wire transfer is complete, the seller is contacted by the bank for the value of the bounced cashier’s check.


  1. Do not deposit checks from and wire money to unknown persons.
  2. Do not share personal information, such as bank accounts, accounts numbers, etc.
  3. Verify and/or report to the following entities:
  • To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant at or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
  • Contact Elder Law & Advocacy at (858) 565-1392 to consult with an elder law attorney at no charge.

Click here for a printable version: Beware of Scams Involving Cashier’s Checks