This could be a “work-from-home scam,” which usually starts with a job posting on a social media site, online marketplace, or a career-building website. The ad may boast short and flexible hours, great pay, and little training. The new “employer” will mail a check to you. Then, they’ll expect you to deposit the check into your checking account and use the funds to pay for items related to the job.

The “employer” will request you send the remainder of the funds back immediately. They may request the money be sent by Western Union, MoneyGram, or through a prepaid card like GreenDot, American Express, or even an iTunes gift card. By the time the check has been returned as fraudulent (which could take days or even weeks), you have sent money to a fraudster who is waiting to take it so it cannot be retrieved.

If you’re working for a new employer you found online, be sure to research them thoroughly. In some cases, fraudsters pretend to be with legitimate businesses, so do your research. Call a phone number that you find as a result of your research to be sure you are really talking to that company. Do not call the phone numbers provided in the paperwork sent by the “employer.” If you have received a check, follow these steps to determine if it is legitimate:

  1. Did the check come with a letter? If so, read the letter carefully. The letter will have instructions to send money or purchase a money order. Do an Internet search to find out if other people have received letters for the same purpose.
  2. Research the business that issued the check. You’ll find the name of the business in the top left-hand corner of the check. If you find a listing online, call the business and ask them if they issued the check. Do not call the phone number provided on the check or in the email as it could lead back to the fraudster.
  3. If you have trouble finding any information, take the check to the financial institution on which it is drawn. They will be able to verify if the check is legitimate.
  4. If you have concerns that the check may be part of a scam, take it and the accompanying letter into the nearest RCU branch to discuss with a manager. You may also call 1 (800) 479-7028 to discuss this with a Member Service Representative.

Following these steps will help protect you from falling victim to a fraudulent check scam. If a fraudulent check is deposited into your account and you spend the money, you’ll be held responsible for the dollar amount when the check is returned.

Offers that promise easy money are often the work of fraudsters. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.