Unlike a personal check, a cashier's check is a direct obligation of the bank. As a result, there is virtually no risk that a cashier's check will bounce or otherwise be invalid.
Unfortunately, fraudsters can create phony cashier's checks and use them for scams. Learn how to verify a cashier's check so you can avoid being a victim of check fraud.
You can take precautions to ensure that a cashier's check is legitimate. To avoid being a fraud victim, follow these steps on how to verify a cashier's check.
QUICK STEPS TO VERIFY A CASHIER'S CHECK
- Don't accept it if it's for more than the purchase price.
- Look out for a watermark, microprint or a red flag: typos.
- Visit or call the issuing bank and ask for verification.
Here's a closer look at the steps you should take to avoid scams involving cashier's checks.
1. Don't Accept a Cashier's Check If There Are Signs of a Scam
One common cashier's check scam involves someone overpaying for an online purchase -- so if you receive a cashier's check for more than the purchase price, don't accept it.
For example, a buyer based outside the U.S. sends a cashier's check seemingly from a U.S.-based bank and asks you to refund the overage separately. Federal law requires that funds from a deposited cashier's check be made available in one business day. By the time the fraudulent check is discovered days or weeks later, the buyer is nowhere to be found. Because you made the deposit, the bank can hold you liable for the fraud.
In addition to the overpayment scam, other common scams to watch out for include:
- Prize or lottery awards
- Prepayment for mystery shopping involving check deposits and wire transfers
If the circumstances seem too good to be true, they probably are.
2. Examine the Cashier's Check
Cashier's checks often include a distinct feature specific to the bank and often tell you what to look for. If the check states there is a watermark or microprint, look for that on the check. If it's missing, the check might not be valid.
Typos are another giveaway that a check is phony, as fake cashier's checks sometimes come from senders overseas.
Here's how a cashier's check typically looks:
3. Visit or Call the Bank
Only the bank that issued a cashier's check can truly verify it. Keep in mind that you can't verify a cashier's check online, but other options are available.
If the check is issued from a bank that has a branch near you, there's no better approach than to take the check into the bank and ask for verification. At a larger bank, such as Wells Fargo, cashier's check verification would follow a set process. There's no charge to verify a cashier's check.
If you can't visit in person to trace a cashier's check, independently confirm the phone number of the bank as listed on the check, then call the bank and ask to verify the check. All banks require these pieces of information to verify a cashier's check:
- Check number
- Name of the person who gave you the check
- Payment amount
It's best to cash or deposit a cashier's check at the bank that issued it, as the validation process is easier. Otherwise, you'll need to cash it at another bank where you have an account. You'll need to present ID verifying that you are the payee the check is made out to, along with your bank account number or ATM card.
If you're wondering whether cashier's checks clear immediately, be aware that there is typically a waiting period. Certain check-cashing businesses, as well as many Walmart stores, can cash a cashier's check for you, but they will likely charge a fee. Walmart, however, promises the cash immediately.
If you're a victim of cashier's check fraud, it's essential to report it immediately. Talk to your bank about how to resolve the issue. You should also report it to:
If the cashier's check was sent by mail, you should also report it to the United States Postal Inspection Service.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.
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- Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "FDIC Consumer News: Beware of Fake Checks." Aug. 2019.
- Federal Trade Commission. "How to Spot, Avoid and Report Fake Check Scams." Jan. 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "FTC Complaint Assistant."
- National Association of Attorneys General. "NAAG | Who's My AG?"
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Answers about Funds Availability - HelpWithMyBank.gov." Jul. 2017.
- United States Postal Inspection Service. "United States Postal Inspection Service."
- Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. "Cashier's Check Scams."