NBC 7 Responds

Is that class-action check in the mail actually a scam?

NBC 7 Responds has tips on how to verify if that check you weren't expecting is real

NBC Universal, Inc.

Grecia Gomez was surprised by a check made out to her that seemed to come out of nowhere.

She didn't want to crumple it up and throw away money that rightfully belonged to her, but didn't want to lose money to someone if they were pulling a fast one on her. 

In a world of digital transactions, checks, of course, continue to be a form of payment, especially for class action settlements.

But what happens if you have no idea who sent it? How can you make sure it’s legitimate and you’re not a target of a scam? 

“First, I wanted to deposit it immediately because I thought it was like a blessing from nowhere,” Gomez told us.

Gomez's check in the mail was for about $40, seemingly from a class action settlement.

“It's a bank that I don't really go to," Gomez said. "It's a job or employer that I don't recognize from my job history, so it seemed a little bit weird. So I thought, maybe, this was not a real thing. And I never got into a class lawsuit either."

So what to do?

“There are so many scams everywhere," Gomez said. "I’ve already been almost scammed because of my Social Security, someone pretending to be a police officer."

Here's how to verify a check

Check that the bank that issued it is legitimate

  • Call the number on the bank's official website, and not the one on the check. In order to verify it, they will ask you for the check number, the date it was issued and the amount
  • Consider how and why you received that check. If you don't recognize who sent it, be cautious. Also, look for spelling errors
  • Check where the check was mailed from. If the postmark is not the same as the city and state of the “supposed” issuing bank, it might be an indication the check is fake. Beware if the check was sent from overseas
  • Official checks usually have watermarks and security features such as color-changing ink. Although a scammer could copy them, the quality is typically bad

“Anything that you don't recognize immediately, you can’t trust ... you need to verify everything,” Gomez said.

After Gomez checked the check she realized the $40 check was real, enough to cover lunch for a few days when she returned to work in downtown San Diego.

Another option to verify a check: Deposit it and let it sit in your account for a while, even if the money is available for withdrawal. Thirty days should be enough time for the cash to be transferred from the bank that issued the check.

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