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I was sent contact information from an agency for a job. After a ton of emails, the person seemed legitimate, and they then sent me a check for the work and supposedly to book flights and such for them. The check comes in, and I stupidly deposited it. The person then tells me to cash it out and buy bitcoin. A red flag.

I’m going to start off by saying I know dumb action depositing it by me.

If I just leave the money in my account, can the sender take any action against me?

I already submitted a claim with my bank.

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    There's no money. The check will bounce eventually.
    – littleadv
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 19:26
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    Why is depositing it a bad idea? if it bounces then it bounces
    – Aequitas
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 6:05
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    @Aequitas Some banks allow you to spend the money the moment you deposit the check but before the check clears. Then when the check bounces after you've spent the money the bank will want the money back and now you owe the bank money while the people who sent you the cheque disappears.
    – slebetman
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 12:50
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    @kevinN - as everyone has told you. For goodness sake, just DON'T RESPOND any more to the scammers. NOTHING. Be aware that you're not even talking to "one actual person", it's just a group of freelance, minimum wage poor bastards who follow the script on a given scam that's being run by some scammers. JUST DON'T RESPOND. If you do respond for some reason, the current person working the shift (who won't even vaguely remember you from the 1000s) will just paste in the next predetermined bit of the script. Honestly, JUST DONT send any more messages, give it a rest, if you haven't already!
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 13:00
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    I like this question because for once in all the scam questions the answer is you're not screwed yet, good job in noticing the scam early enough.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 14:45

4 Answers 4

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Good on you for catching the fraud immediately.

Immediately alert your bank to the suspected fraud. I would even walk into a branch, as then, they will instantly grok that you're for real and not working a scam yourself. Tell them you doubt the veracity of the check, cancel the deposit and ask them to waive fees. (it doesn't actually work that way, you can't "stop payment" on a deposit, but it tells the bank where you're at on this, and asking for the fee waiver may well work!)

This is almost certainly a fake check overpayment scam - they've been doing these scams for decades. They send you a check for more money than the item or service you are selling, and ask you to send back the overpayment. They pressure to send the money back FAST, and in a form which is non-reversible like Western Union, gift cards or Bitcoin. They deliberately code their cheque with defective routing data so it takes longer than usual to bounce.

Now your bank has no idea how long a check takes to bounce/clear. So the bank gives a fixed amount of time that is based on a TYPICAL clearing time and then releases the funds into your account. You didn't know that, did you? You thought when it releases into your account, it has positively cleared... so you send the money on to them. THEN the check bounces.

They know every vulnerability in our systems. These scammers are really good at it. We think of them as morons because of all the obvious errors we see in scam emails... but even those are smartly chosen and deliberate. Don't ever underestimate a scammer.

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    "your bank has no idea how long a check takes to bounce/clear." - why not? Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 20:32
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    @KarlKnechtel Because we live in a world, not a walled garden of European + a few Pacific Rim advanced democracies. Thus banking is limited by atlasandboots.com/travel-blog/tia-this-is-africa Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 20:58
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    I as a Canadian citizen receive and deposit a cheque from another Canadian citizen (or if I am the sender), why should things that happen in Africa impact on the cheque clearance time? Like, I get that a cheque could have defective routing data. But why can't a Canadian bank instantly tell me "the numbers on this check don't indicate a standard cheque originating from a major Canadian bank with clearly valid routing data"? Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 21:04
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    @Karl I don't know, Check21 is the enabling technology that is supposed to make that possible. Why they haven't implemented it, I bet your banker would know. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 21:08
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    Remember that comments are to ask for more information or to suggest improvements. Off-topic comments have been pruned. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 23:20
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Scenario 1: Deposit check, send them money, then the check finally gets all the way through the banking system and bounces. You've lost your money and have very little recourse.

Scenario 2: The cash flow is genuine but illegal; you're being used to launder the money. You can be at serious legal risk.

Nobody legitimate will want to run their money through your bank account.

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Talk to your bank and make sure they understand the situation: that you think the deposit was part of a scam and you have no intention of touching the money. The bank will have procedures for reversing the deposit. The key thing is to keep in communication with the bank and establish that you are acting in good faith.

The scammers may very well threaten you, but it will be a bluff. At most tell them you are working to reverse the deposit, but otherwise don't respond to them.

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    It would be funny to repeatedly tell them they need to pay additional fees to get their bitcoin.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 18:22
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My question is, if i just leave the money in my account can the sender take any action against me?

Depends on who you call "the sender". The source of your communication, the one writing the cheque, or the owner of the account that the cheque is drawing its money from. All can be different.

If there is no such account, the banks can take actions, essentially reversing the payment and adding a penalty for a bounced cheque. If there is such an account, you can be reported to the police as a participating and abetting party in fraud, theft and/or money laundering. That can come at significant cost.

You should at a minimum come clean with the bank, and it would not be amiss to also report to the police.

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