Class-action settlements and prize money: How to tell if a check is real or fake

Don't Waste Your Money

Lots of us open up our mailboxes to find a check inside. It may say it's part of some class-action settlement or it may claim we've won money.

How do you know if it's legitimate?

Warning Signs it May be Bogus

By now, everyone with a brain knows that a check in the mail from an African prince wanting to share his fortune is fake. But today's scammers are more sophisticated.

The Consumer Federation of America says watch for these signs an unexpected check is phony:

--It's for only a partial payment. You have to send money to get the rest. Real winnings do not require you to pay a dime.

--It requires you to wire funds by Western Union for any reason. If you are required to walk up to Western Union counter, you are being scammed.

--The company name on the check and company name on the envelope are different.

Signs of a Real Check

There is a good chance the check is real if:

--It's a settlement from a class-action suit. These are very common.

--It's for less than $100. Settlements are not for small amounts.

--You are not required to do anything but cash it.

Beware Corporate Logos

But from the "doesn't that stink"  file, fake checks that fool even savvy people.

The Consumer Federation says beware checks and letters showing legitimate logos like Walmart, Costco and Best Buy. They often claim you have been chosen to be a mystery shopper. They are all fake.

Walmart will not contact you to be a mystery shopper. And no one will send you money in advance to do mystery shopping.

A good rule of thumb: Fake checks tend to be big checks and usually want you to do more than just cash them.

So take some time to find out what you have, so you don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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