Just about every corner of the internet is filled with scams and fraud attempts, waiting to prey on gullible users. Fortunately, with better awareness and education, more and more people are able to spot these crimes and take action to avoid becoming a victim.

In this instance, one quick-thinking postal employee helped prevent a customer from falling victim to an electronics scam, despite his assurances that everything was legitimate and that his newfound work from home job was genuine. When a customer came into a Fresno, California, post office to mail several packages to international addresses, the employee became curious. She questioned the customer about what the packages contained, and why he was mailing them to those addresses. Fortunately for the customer, he was happy to explain about his new job opportunity rather than feeling put out by the slight intrusion.

That’s when the employee informed him that this was a scam. He told her no, that the company who’d hired him had already sent him a check to purchase the iPads and cover the shipping, along with a remaining amount as his payment. A quick call to his bank, though, confirmed the employee’s suspicions: the check he’d received was no good and his bank balance had not gone up.

Had the employee not been aware of the scam—or worse, had she not cared enough to ask why the individual was mailing iPads overseas—the victim of the scam would have lost out in a big way. Not only would he have bought high-dollar electronics and paid a lot of money to ship them to the thieves, he could then have faced additional overdrawn charges on his bank account. That could also have meant that any checks that bounced went unpaid, possibly resulting in late fees from the intended recipients.

In this instance, there was a happy ending (the victim could return the iPads for a refund), but for too many victims of this type of scam, the end result is far more upsetting. Apart from the lost funds and the feelings of being cheated, in some cases the victims actually continue the scam in the hopes that this will still turn out to be a legitimate job, since they can’t bring themselves to admit they were victimized. In extreme cases of scams like this one, victims have even been roped into receiving stolen goods, which can result in criminal charges for the victim.

It’s absolutely crucial that the public stays informed about scams and fraud, but also to keep in mind one universal adage: there is no such thing as free money. No one will pay you a legitimate income to do a task that can be done with little or no effort, and no one will hire you to do a job that requires almost nothing on your part. If anyone reaches out to you online for employment and cannot provide you with things like a physical address and documentation to report this “amazing” income to the IRS, then it is not a legitimate job offer. Walk away, before you become a victim.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.