Police warn of money order fraud
FRISCO – Several different scams that use counterfeit money orders or cashier’s checks to drain victims’ bank accounts are circulating around Summit County, and have already taken a handful of locals as their prey.The circumstances are different in each scheme, but the basic gist is the same: A person overpays the victim in an arranged transaction then asks the victim to wire transfer the difference back to them before the victim – or the victim’s bank – can realize the check is fraudulent.”We’ve had at least six (cases) in the last six months here in Frisco,” said Frisco Det. Julie Polly, adding that detectives in every town and the county are all investigating similar situations. One of the cases in Frisco involved a man who advertised a wooden kitchen table for sale in the Summit Daily News classifieds for $650 back in October.A man purporting to be from Ontario called and offered to purchase the table because he and his wife were moving to Breckenridge for the winter. He sent a cashier’s check to the seller for $1,980, then explained that his wife had inadvertently sent enough money for some other purchases and could he wire transfer the difference ($1,330) back?The unsuspecting victim deposited the check, waited two days for it to clear, then wired the money. Three days later, when the check completed the entire clearinghouse process, the victim’s bank discovered it was counterfeit, but by then it was too late – the money was already gone.Another Frisco man avoided a similar scam when he advertised his rental home online. In his case, a man supposedly from England offered to pay $5,100 for first and last month’s rent plus deposit, then sent $12,340 instead and asked his victim to send the difference to his “lawyer.” Although he attempted to carry out the request, Western Union discovered that the money order was counterfeit before the wire went through.He was fortunate.Dillon Sgt. Wendy Kipple is handling a case in which a woman was duped out of $4,900 when she agreed to rent her Idaho Springs home to a supposed church pastor from Ontario for his 50th wedding anniversary.Kipple’s advice to avoid being taken advantage of is simple: “The bottom line is do not go for a deal where they’re going to send you more money than what you have coming, just don’t do it,” she said.But, the con artists aren’t only targeting people who are selling something online; some build a repertoire via the internet with their victim before the ruse.A woman in Frisco reported meeting a man in a chat room and talking for almost two months before he asked her to send him money through Western Union because he lived in Nigeria and it was very expensive to cash the checks he received from his mother and sister in England. In return, he would send the local woman checks through the mail.She wired $1,800 and the man sent her four, $450 money orders, which turned out to be counterfeit. “She was devastated financially and emotionally by the scam,” Det. Polly said.These types of cases are difficult to prosecute because the internet provides anonymity to the suspects, Polly said. Kipple said people need to be protect themselves by being extra vigilant when making a sales agreement online. Also people shouldn’t automatically assume that money orders or cashier’s checks are as good as cash, she said.”Most people when they see a cashier’s check, they think it’s a legitimate check, but it’s just as forgable as a regular check,” Kipple said.Box: Tips to avoid being scammed• Trust your suspicions. If somebody contacts you via internet or phone regarding a business transaction and asks you to deposit a check then wire them money, be cautious and set your own guidelines for doing business with that person.• Never provide your bank account information to anyone.• If someone you’ve met online asks you to help them by cashing checks, think twice. This is a common scam and the checks are often counterfeit.• Work with your bank. Banks recognize check counterfeiting has become sophisticated, and they also want to avoid a loss to their customers. Tell your bank if you suspect a check is counterfeit.• Be patient. If you decide to help someone, don’t get in a hurry to get the money moving around. Criminals want their victims to act fast so the transactions occur before the victim realizes the check is counterfeit.Source: Detective Julie Polly, Frisco Police DepartmentNicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at email@example.com.
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