How To Verify a Check and Validate Your Funds

Article Summary:

Check verification is important to avoid scams or bounced checks, which can help you avoid losing money or paying extra fees. You can verify a check online, over the phone, or in person.

Many customers still prefer to pay using checks over debit and credit cards, but not all of them write it honestly. Some customers may have insufficient funds when they write the check. If you try to cash that check, you’ll be charged a fee. Scammers also use checks as a way to dupe people into giving them money and, unfortunately, it works.

The best way to avoid bounced checks or getting scammed is by verifying your check and validating funds. Doing this will help not only prevent you from losing money, but it will also save you a lot of time and stress that come with fraudulent checks and insufficient funds.

What is check verification, and how does it work?

Check verification is a way to review checks to ensure they are not fraudulent and will be cashed appropriately. This system confirms the validity of the check and is used by both individuals and businesses. Verifying funds is done by identifying the issuing bank, account and routing number, and check amount.

There are a few different ways a check can be verified. You can do it yourself (and we’ll review how to do this later in the article), or it can be done through a check verification service. Check verification services are used specifically to validate paychecks, make sure that an actual bank account exists, and identify the current status of the account. While this can be helpful, this service costs money and is typically only used by businesses.

Why is check verification important?

There are a few different ways a person can scam you, including check fraud. Arguably the most important reason to verify a check is to prevent fraud, but it also helps you avoid paying added fees.

If you go to cash a check and the issuer doesn’t have sufficient funds, you’ll also be charged a fee. Verifying a check identifies red flags and reduces the chance of you being scammed or having a check bounce.

Where can you go to get a check verified?

You can verify a check through a financial institution, either your own institution or the issuing one. However, you can also contact a professional check verification service, which you can find online or ask a financial institution for a recommendation.

That being said, it’s important to note that you’ll likely have to pay to use an online check verification service. Fortunately, it’s usually free over the phone or in person.

How to verify a check

First, there are some key things to look out for to make sure your check is legitimate. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the check you got:

  • Is the issuing bank legitimate?
  • Where did the check come from? Did you get it from a reliable person or business?
  • Does the address the check was mailed from exist?
  • Are there any watermarks, security features, or security threats on the check? Copied versions of these features are usually questionable.
  • Is the amount of the check the amount that you expected? Scammers sometimes give more than promised.

These are just a few ways you can quickly assess whether or not the check you have is legitimate. If any of these issues arrive when just looking over the check, it’s best to ensure the funds are available before trying to cash it.

Here are a few other ways you can verify a check.

Over the phone

The most straightforward way to get a check verified is over the phone through your financial institution. As mentioned earlier, you can contact either your own institution or the one the check was issued through. While you can go through the issuing bank or credit union, it might be better to go with your own just in case the issuing one is a scam. The name of the institution should be located on the front of the check.

Once you decide where to verify your check, follow the steps below:

  1. First, contact a customer service agent. Avoid any phone number printed on the check, as counterfeit checks can have a fake customer service number. Instead, look for a phone number listed on the bank’s app or website.
  2. Tell the customer service agent that you’d like to verify a check. If they can’t help you, they can direct you to someone who can.
  3. Next, provide the customer service agent with the account and routing number of the check you are verifying. These numbers will be located at the bottom of the front side of the check.
  4. Lastly, give the customer service agent the amount of the check. Using all this information, the bank should be able to verify funds.

IMPORTANT! Keep in mind that not all banks will tell you if funds are available in the account. They may just be able to tell you whether or not the account exists. This is to protect the account holder’s privacy.

Online

Online check verification services are usually used by businesses, and though you can use them for an individual check, you’ll likely have to pay to do so. So, if you’re a business and accept checks regularly, using an online check verification service can save you a lot of time since you won’t have to contact the bank for every check you receive.

Online check verification services keep track of people who write bad checks and can verify accounts. They can also tell you what the current status of the account is. Although each professional verification service is different, most review the following features of the check:

  • Routing number
  • Account number
  • Amount of the check
  • Check number

Pro Tip

Unfortunately, there are currently no free online tools to verify funds. If any companies say they do this service for free, check the validity of it.

In-person

Perhaps the most reliable way to verify checks is by visiting a financial institution in person. Verifying funds in person is very similar to doing so over the phone. An employee will need to know the routing and account number, as well as the amount of the check. But additionally, you will likely have to show the bank a form of identification to prove that the check is written to you.

If possible, go to the issuer’s institution to verify the funds. While your bank or credit union can call the issuer’s institution, they won’t have real-time access, which could make the process slower.

The financial institution can tell you whether or not the check is legitimate. They might also be able to make sure the account holder has enough funds available and ensure that the check won’t bounce. Once verified, you can cash in the check right there.

Pro Tip

If you figure out your check isn’t valid, void it right away. If it was part of a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can report fraud to the FTC here.

Common check scams

Now that we’ve discussed how to verify funds let’s review some common scams. If you find yourself in the following situations (or something eerily similar), it’s likely that you’re being scammed.

Inheritance or lottery winnings

A good rule of thumb is this: If it’s too good to be true, then it likely is. Get rich quick or lottery scams are like this.

For these scams, check recipients are told they’ve received an inheritance or have won the lottery. In order to receive their money, they will have to pay taxes or fees. The scammer will send a cashier’s check, have the recipient cash it, and wire the money back to them to cover the fees and taxes. Then the scammers disappear with your money.

Personal assistant

While there are many legitimate personal assistant jobs, be wary of where you apply. A common scam is when the “boss” gives the assistant a check and has them use the money to buy gift cards.

The assistant will then send the gift cards’ PIN numbers to the boss. The check, however, is fraudulent and will bounce. The boss will use the gift card PINs right away and disappear.

Overpayment scams

In some cases, scammers will offer to buy an item listed for sale online. After saying they’ll buy it, the scammer will send a fake cashier’s check with an amount higher than the asking price of the item.

The scammer will then ask you to deposit the check and send back the extra funds they “accidentally” wrote out in the check. Because it takes a couple of days for a check to clear, the scammer will likely disappear before you realize the check was fake.

Secret shoppers

Scammers may try to hire you as a secret — or mystery — shopper. According to the FTC, the scammers will have you evaluate whether or not a store sells gift cards, money orders, or a wire transfer service. You’ll receive a check that you’ll need to deposit and wire the money to someone else. After that, the money and the “employer” will be gone.

To help prevent yourself from becoming the victim of a scam, take a look at some of the checking accounts below, each of which comes with fraud monitoring features.

What to do if you’re scammed

There are a few different things you can do if you’ve been duped. If you were scammed using a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away and tell them it was a scam. Also, tell them what store you purchased the cards from before asking if your money can be refunded. If you contact them fast enough, you might be able to get your money back.

If you were scammed using a wire transfer service, contact the wire transfer company right away and report fraud. You should also file a complaint and ask for the money to be reversed. It may not work, but it’s worth asking.

If you paid the scammer through a money order, contact the issuer right away and try to stop the payment. If you sent the money order through the mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and try to prevent it from being delivered.

Most importantly, report it to the government. You can report check scams to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and your state’s Attorney General.

What happens if you cash a check from a scammer?

Unfortunately, you’ll likely be responsible for repaying the entire amount of the check. You can, however, talk to your bank and see if the funds can be refunded. Regardless, be sure to report the scam to the FTC.

What can I do if I deposited a fake check?

Contact your bank and notify them of it right away. They may be able to catch it soon enough. Then, report the event to the FTC.

Key Takeaways

  • Verifying a check is important to prevent cashing a fraudulent check.
  • You can verify funds online, in person, or over the phone.
  • Verifying funds online may cost money and is usually only done by businesses.
  • Common check scams include personal assistant scams, lottery scams, and secret shopper scams.
View Article Sources
  1. FDIC Consumer News: Beware of Fake Checks — Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  2. How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams — Federal Trade Commission
  3. How to Correctly Write a Check With Cents and Dollars — SuperMoney
  4. How To Cash a Cashier’s Check — SuperMoney
  5. Do Checks Expire If Not Cashed? — SuperMoney
  6. How to Void a Check — SuperMoney
  7. How Long Does It Take For A Check To Clear — SuperMoney
  8. Third-Party Check: What It Is and Where To Cash It — SuperMoney
  9. Mobile Check Deposit Limits for the Top U.S. Banks (2022 Update) — SuperMoney
  10. How to Open a Checking Account — SuperMoney
  11. What is Direct Deposit? How To Deposit Your Paycheck Safely — SuperMoney
  12. How To Send Money Anonymously – 2022 Guide — SuperMoney
  13. Don’t Be a Scam Victim! — SuperMoney