DEPARTMENTS AND SERVICES
05/14/2012

Sheriff's Office Cautions About Scams

 

Over the past few weeks the Sheriff’s Office has once again been receiving complaints about attempted SCAMS. Individuals filing these reports have been contacted by E-mail, by phone and through the mail. A variation of the DEBT ELIMINATION in which callers have claimed to be law enforcement officials (commonly FBI) and have attempted to coerce the potential victim into paying debts that may or may not be legitimate is becoming very common in this area. Be Aware. Law enforcement does not collect debts. Listed below are four of the most common scams in their basic form. What you receive will more than likely be some variation of one of these. Numbers and addresses provided in these scams have proven to be virtually untraceable. Please use caution and common sense before giving personal information or sending money.

Debt Elimination

Debt elimination schemes generally involve websites or tele-marketer calls advertising a legal way to dispose of mortgage loans and credit card debts. Most often, all that is required of the participant is to send $1,500 to $2,000 to the subject, along with all the particulars of the participant's loan information and a special power of attorney authorizing the subject to enter into transactions regarding the title of the participant's homes on their behalf. The subject then issues bonds and promissory notes to the lenders that purport to legally satisfy the debts of the participant. In exchange, the participant is then required to pay a certain percentage of the value of the satisfied debts to the subject. The potential risk of identity theft related crimes associated with the debt elimination scheme is extremely high because the participants provide all of their personal information to the subject.

Counterfeit Cashier's Check

The counterfeit cashier's check scheme targets individuals that use Internet classified advertisements to sell merchandise. Typically, an interested party located outside the United States contacts a seller. The seller is told that the buyer has an associate in the United States that owes him money. As such, he will have the associate send the seller a cashier's check for the amount owed to the buyer.

The amount of the cashier's check will be thousands of dollars more than the price of the merchandise and the seller is told the excess amount will be used to pay the shipping costs associated with getting the merchandise to his location. The seller is instructed to deposit the check, and as soon as it clears, to wire the excess funds back to the buyer or to another associate identified as a shipping agent. In most instances, the money is sent to locations in West Africa (Nigeria).

Because a cashier's check is used, a bank will typically release the funds immediately, or after a one or two day hold. Falsely believing the check has cleared, the seller wires the money as instructed.

In some cases, the buyer is able to convince the seller that some circumstance has arisen that necessitates the cancellation of the sale, and is successful in conning the victim into sending the remainder of the money. Shortly thereafter, the victim's bank notifies him that the check was fraudulent, and the bank is holding the victim responsible for the full amount of the check.

Lotteries 

The lottery scheme deals with persons randomly contacting email addresses advising them they have been selected as the winner of an International lottery. The Internet Crime Complaint Center has identified numerous lottery names being used in this scheme.

The email message usually reads similar to the following:

“This is to inform you of the release of money winnings to you. Your email was randomly selected as the winner and therefore you have been approved for a lump sum payout of $500,000.00. To begin your lottery claim, please contact the processing company selected to process your winnings.”

An agency name follows this body of text with a point of contact, phone number, fax number, and an email address. An initial fee ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 is often requested to initiate the process and additional fee requests follow after the process has begun. These emails may also list a United States point of contact and address while also indicating the point of contact at a foreign address.

Internet Auction Fraud

Some consumers like the convenience of shopping from their computer. Con artists, however, can use Internet auction sites as a way to steal from consumers by disguising a scheme as a legitimate offer or purchase.

Types of Internet Auction Fraud

  • Overpayment Fraud: A legitimate seller advertises an item on the Internet and the scammer contacts the seller to purchase the item. The scammer sends a counterfeit check or money order for an amount greater than the item. The scammer asks the seller to deposit the payment, deduct the actual sale price and return the difference to a shipper or handler.
  • Wire Transfer Scheme: The scammer advertises a fraudulent or misleading item to be sold on an online auction site. When the legitimate purchaser contacts the scammer they ask the purchaser to wire money to complete the purchase. Once the legitimate purchaser wires the money, the scammer is never heard from again, and the purchaser never receives delivery of the item.
  • Second-chance Scheme: When a legitimate purchaser loses a bid on a legitimate auction a scammer will offer them the opportunity to buy the item for a price that is less than the losing bid. Once the legitimate purchaser sends the money, usually by wire transfer, the scammer is never heard from again and the purchaser never receives delivery of the item.

Before You Place A Bid

  • Contact the seller with any questions about payment options or questions about the item.
  • Review the seller’s feedback on the Internet auction site.
  • Stay away or be very cautious when dealing with sellers or purchasers out of your own country.
  • Understand the refund, return, warranty policies of the auction site you are utilizing.
  • Determine the shipping method and charges before you buy.
  • Stay away or be very cautious if the seller only accepts wire transfers.
  • If the seller insists on an escrow service, ensure it is legitimate.
  • You may want to insure your purchased item.
  • Stay away from unsolicited offers.

How To Avoid Scams

  • Wiring money is like giving cash away. If you wire money, there is no protection for you if you later learn that the recipient is not who they claimed to be.
  • Never give out personal or banking information in response to a phone, email or mail inquiry. Contact the entity requesting the information directly through a different method to verify that it is a reputable company with which you have an existing relationship.
  • Never send money to someone who you don't know and haven't met in person.
  • When purchasing items or services online, make sure you research the seller and know their physical location.
  • If you are giving to charity, especially in the wake of a natural disaster, give to an organization that has a strong history in providing relief. Instead of paying in cash, make a check or money order payable to the charitable organization, not an individual.
  • Most importantly, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investigate the offer before accepting or paying any money.