State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and the New Jersey Department of the Treasury today are warning consumers about fake checks. They are highly detailed and realistic, and claim to be cashier’s checks for $3,800, issued by the New Jersey State Treasury. The checks aren’t real and you definitely don’t want to cash one.

In the “cashier’s check scam,” con artists will spin an elaborate story to convince the victim to deposit a fake cashier’s check into his or her own personal bank account, then write a separate check to the scammer – or wire money to the scammer. The fake cashier’s check will look realistic enough to fool the teller at the victim’s bank, when he or she attempts to make the deposit.  Although the teller will give the victim a receipt, the fact is that, once the bank determines the check is a fake, no money is actually deposited into the victim’s account – and so the victim loses whatever money he or she sends to the scammer.

“We are seeing with more and more frequency that technology makes it easier than ever for con artists to create phony legal documents, checks, and even websites that mimic those of government entities or businesses,” says Chiesa. “Consumers should stop and verify the truth of any communication that asks them to send money, or their bank account or other sensitive information, to a third party.”

At least one person as far away as Ohio has received the fraudulent check in the mail from a con artist. It included a letter that stated the check was being sent for a “Mystery Shopper assignment.” The letter instructed the consumer to deposit the check, keep $200, and use the balance to send wire transfers via two separate Western Union locations – supposedly to evaluate the Western Union services. 

State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff says, “Criminals who would cheat the most vulnerable people in society with such a heartless scam are beneath contempt.  Consumers should have absolutely no doubt that this check, and any similar communication purporting to come from the State of New Jersey, is a fraud. Anyone who receives an offer of money that claims to be from a government agency, should call that agency directly, and independently verify whether the check or letter is real.”

The “State Treasurer Impostor Scam” comes on the heels of another scam, discovered last month, in which con artists sent out a realistic but fake “legal document” purporting to be from the New Jersey Attorney General. That 11-page letter bore the logo and letterhead of the Attorney General’s Office, and invited consumers to apply for their share of the proceeds from a fictitious multimillion-dollar legal settlement.