Get an Unexpected Check in the Mail? How to Tell if it’s Real or Fake

A pile of dollars.

Several savvy South Carolinians who received a check from the Santee Cooper Class Action Settlement recently called the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) wanting to know if the check is real or fake.

A quick way to differentiate if an unexpected check is legit or from the grinch is if the sender asks you to deposit the check and send a portion of it to another person. There are a few situations where fake checks are common:

  • Selling Products Online. Whether you are selling a product on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or any other site, be suspicious of “buyers” who send you checks for more than the selling price of your product. They’ll ask you to deposit it and then send the excess back in cash. If you agree, you’ll be sending your cash because the check will bounce and you’ll never hear from the buyer again.
  • Mystery or Secret Shopping. Scammers will “hire” people to be mystery or secret shoppers and send you a check to deposit into your bank account. They say the money is for your first job evaluating a money transfer service. All you have to do is wire/transfer the money somewhere else. Turns out the check was a dud and the money you’ve transferred is your own. Never deposit a check and wire the money somewhere else unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with. For more details on mystery or secret shopping, watch SCDCA’s Secret Shopper Scams video.
  • Sweepstakes and Lottery Winnings. “Winners” are given checks and told to send back some of the money to cover taxes, shipping and handling charges or processing fees. No legitimate sweepstakes or lottery is going to ask you to pay to collect your prize.

One easy way to see if a check is real? Head to your bank and ask them to verify the funds are in the other account and wait until it truly “clears,” which can take up to two weeks.

Santee Cooper said they will be sending settlement checks out to consumers from November 13 to November 27, 2020. For more information on Santee Cooper’s class action lawsuit and settlement checks you receive, head over to or call (833) 947-0894.