Avoiding Mobile Deposit Scams, Fakes, and Hacks

By Sarah Li Cain · February 20, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Avoiding Mobile Deposit Scams, Fakes, and Hacks

Sadly, mobile banking and check fraud are on the rise, as scammers come up with new ways to try to trick people out of their money. One such tactic is mobile deposit scams, which involves your unwittingly depositing a fake check through a mobile deposit. The scammer either convinces you to reveal personal information or to send them money from your account. By the time you realize what is happening, your money is gone or your sensitive information could be used for ill intent.

To protect yourself, read on and learn:

•   What happens when you mobile-deposit a fake check

•   What are the common scams currently circulating

•   What you can do to avoid being ripped off by a fake mobile deposit check.

What Happens if You Mobile-Deposit a Fake Check?

Before talking about fake checks, it’s important to first define what a mobile deposit is.

•   It’s a type of deposit can be done through your bank or credit union’s app.

•   You snap a photo of a paper check with your mobile device, upload it plus information about its amount and which deposit you want it submitted to.

•   Once the bank processes and approves it, the check will be deposited in your checking account.

With mobile deposit scams, however, one of two things might happen:

•   The scammer might convince you to deposit a fake check, often for more than the amount you were told would arrive. Then the fraudster might ask you to return the “extra” amount they said they accidentally sent you (which you do, not knowing the check they sent is bogus).

•   The scammer asks for your personal information so they can deposit money into your bank account (which they’ll never do).

If you deposit a fake check, whether through your bank’s mobile app or another means, there are several scenarios that can unfold.

•   The bank may deny the deposit and declare the check is fake.

•   The bank may clear the check, and there is a deposit in your account. However, that doesn’t mean the bank won’t come back around and discover the check is fake. In this case, the check bounces, and you’re responsible for paying the amount back to the bank.

In either case, you could be held liable for the fake check and any extra costs that the bank may have incurred because of this bank fraud. The authorities may even be involved if there is a criminal investigation for the fake check.

💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

Tips for Spotting a Fake Mobile-Deposit Check

There are several ways you can use to spot a fake check or attempt to verify a check, such as:

•   Considering the sender: If you’re unsure who sent you the check, it’s best to double-check why you received the check. If, say, it’s from your bank or a company you do business with, you can contact their listed business number and find out why it was sent vs. just depositing the check.

•   Looking at the check amount: Fraudulent checks typically are for an amount that’s much larger than the payment you expect to receive. The idea is to get you to return the extra amount. For checks that have seemingly a larger amount than expected, contact the sender to correct it, which they should do if they are legitimate. (You may hear the practice of intentionally writing checks against insufficient funds referred to as check kiting.)

•   Check the financial institution: Fake checks may look legitimate but have a bank or credit union name that doesn’t exist. You can do a simple online search to find the name of the financial institution, or contact the FDIC to determine if the bank is real.

•   Determine the quality of the check: Look at the check to see if there are any watermarks or other indicators of security features typical of a real check. Feel the paper as well, as real checks are typically printed on thicker paper than bogus ones.

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4 Mobile-Deposit Scams to Avoid

Unfortunately, there are many tactics that scammers try to use to get you to part with your money. Four common mobile check-deposit scams include fake jobs, bogus contests, fraudulent sales, and dating scams.

Fake Jobs

Here’s how this typically goes:

•   You answer an advertisement for a job, like a mystery shopper, personal shopper, or some other form of employment.

•   You apply, are hired, and are sent a check — an upfront payment for work, for example — for a larger amount than you were promised and are asked to send the excess amount back.

•   You deposit the check, send the excess back, and then find out that the check you were sent has bounced. You are liable for that “excess” you sent back.

•   Or you’re asked to review, say, a company that sells money orders or wire transfer services. You receive a check from the scammer to be used to purchase money orders and/or send a wire transfer.

•   You deposit the check, make the purchase as directed, and send a money order or wire transfer to someone else’s savings account. Then, guess what? The check winds up bouncing, and you’re out of cash.

Fake Contests

This scam usually unfolds as follows:

•   Someone posing as a representative of a company or lottery contacts you to let you know that you’ve won a contest.

•   You may not remember entering the contest (because, as it turns out, you didn’t), but you give the rep some personal details so they can send the check.

•   Once you receive the check, the scammer tells you they sent too much money and asks that you send the excess amount back to them. You deposit the check and return the overage.

•   The check turns out to be fake (how long for mobile deposit or in-person checks to bounce? It can be a couple of days or longer). That means the alleged excess that you returned is your cash that’s now disappeared.

Auction or Online Marketplaces

Selling your stuff on websites or in-person can lead to scams:

•   You’re selling some items on an online marketplace (say, eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace), and the scammer purchases it from you.

•   The scammer gives you a check for an amount that’s higher than your item’s listed price and asks you for the overpayment back. You send the money back, and later find out that the check is fake. Meanwhile, the scam has made off with your money.

Dating Scams

These types of scams can take a long time to unfold:

•   The scammer creates a fake profile on a dating app or social media and strikes up a conversation.

•   Over time, this person may win your trust and then face an emergency or some other situation for which they need to borrow money. (Maybe they need funds to buy a plane ticket to eventually visit you.)

•   You agree to lend them some money, which they say they will soon return via check. Yes, you receive the check from them, but it ends up being a fake one, and the money you “loaned” the fraudster is gone.

What to Do if You Receive a Fake Mobile Deposit From a Stranger

If you believe you’ve received a fake check and are unsure whether to deposit it via your mobile app, pause.

•   Double-check with the sender if possible whether the payment is legitimate.

•   If you were expecting a payment and they send more than the anticipated amount, ask the sender to void the check and send you the correct amount. If there’s no response or a refusal, don’t deposit it.

•   Don’t draw against the potentially fake check until you are sure that it’s fully cleared. Don’t assume that just because the amount shows up immediately in your bank account that you can go ahead and spend it.

•   You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you believe someone is targeting you for a fake mobile deposit scam.

The Takeaway

You can’t control what scammers do, but you can control how you respond to them. By learning how to spot signs of fraud, including mobile deposit fake checks, you can protect yourself from romance, job, and other ploys. By educating yourself and being wary, you may prevent someone from taking advantage of you and your money.

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What happens if you mobile-deposit a fake check?

If you submit a fake check through mobile deposit, the bank may either reject it right away or accept the form of payment. However, even if the bank accepts it and conditionally credits it to your account, when the check is later found to be fraudulent, the amount will be debited from your account.

How do you know if a mobile deposit check is real?

You can inspect a check by seeing if there are certain security features like watermarks and seals. You can also see if it has heavy paper (like most checks you have deposited) or whether it’s on thinner stock. Also double-check online if the bank the check is drawn on is real.

Can you go to jail for mobile-depositing a fake check?

If you knowingly, intentionally mobile-deposit a fake check in an attempt to deceive a bank, you may face criminal consequences.

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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