MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Attention, college students! A consumer alert warning has been issued regarding an emerging work-from-home employment scam.

The office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said scammers are targeting Florida students via emails that appear to be sent from legitimate colleges or universities.

Moody’s office said the scammers obtain personal information from the student while posing as a university representative. The students are then convinced to cash counterfeit checks and send them the money.

“During the COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic downturn, Floridians are looking for work, and it is unconscionable that scammers are exploiting these times of uncertainty to prey on our college students. Students who fall victim to this scam could face serious repercussions to their financial stability and credit record. I am urging all students currently enrolled at Florida colleges and universities to take extra precaution when receiving online job offers,” said Moody.

As part of the scheme, the student receives an email from an organization with ‘.edu.’ in the email, they then receive counterfeit checks in the mail, or via email, and is instructed to deposit the checks into a personal checking account. The scammers then direct the student to withdraw the money and make a payment necessary for the job. Often, after the student sends the money, the checks are confirmed to be fraudulent by the bank.

Officials said students falling victim to the scam experience bank accounts being closed due to fraudulent activity and a report filed by the bank with a credit bureau or law enforcement agency.

The student is responsible for reimbursing the bank for the total amount of the counterfeit checks, oftentimes resulting in an adverse effect on the student’s credit record, officials said.

Moody’s office offers the following tips in order to avoid falling for these types of employment scams:

• Research the company before accepting any job offer. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Search for what others are saying about experiences with the company;
• If the solicitor is communicating via email, locate contact information for the sender through the school’s website and confirm whether the job offer is real;
• Look for red flags, such as typos and grammatical errors. Offers of employment or pay without an interview are another sign of an employment scam; and
• Never send funds in the form of cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers to secure a job or as part of an assigned duty by a new employer.

Anyone who believes they are the victim of hacking or a COVID-19 related scam should contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or MyFloridaLegal.com.

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