You can never be too careful when it comes to long-distance business dealings. Our Las Vegas affiliates at KTNV report on the story of a local couple that thought they had a lucrative new job opportunity that turned out to be a sadly familiar scam. Struggling with debt and trying to care for two young children, the father took a job with an Australian company as a driver for a new Las Vegas office. The “company” sent them a check for almost $7,000 to pay for the purpose of hiring movers to deliver equipment. This “employer” instructed him to take $5,500, convert it into Bitcoin, and use that to pay the movers. The following day, they discovered that the money was gone. The check was counterfeit, and the couple had lost their own money. This scam is dangerous — In this case, the check was real, but it was issued by someone other than the owner of the account. Here are four tips to protect yourself:

  1. Be cautious if anyone offers you a large check up-front for goods or services. It’s a common warning sign that the check is fake. If you’re suspicious, ask the bank to confirm it’s genuine.
  2. Wait at least two weeks after depositing a check. While the funds are usually available much sooner, it can take longer for a fraudulent check to be identified.
  3. Remember: You are on the hook if you deposit a counterfeit check. You need to know and trust the source of any funds you deposit.
  4. If you discover that you’ve been scammed, make sure you alert your financial institution as soon as possible. Even if it’s embarrassing, acting quickly can help minimize the damage.

If you have been scammed with a fake check and the scam originated online, you can submit a complaint to the FBI here. If the check was mailed to you, you can file a complaint with the US Postal Inspection Service here.

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