Wire Transfers

So many of the online scams involve the scammer sending a counterfeit cashier’s check or money order, asking the victim to wait for it to “clear” and then wire a portion of the money on to someone. The scammers make up all kinds of stories to make the reason for having to wire money to someone else make sense, and of course since the bank has already told you that the check is “clear” you feel like there is nothing to worry about.

Did you know this . . . when you wire money to someone, even if you write on the documentation that the wire transfer is to be picked up in Detroit, Michigan if the scammer has the test/security question and answer along with the wire transfer information then they can pick up the money at any location in the world . . . like Lagos, Nigeria.

These test or security questions are a feature put in place for emergency situations, when the person picking up the money has lost their photo id, which is normally needed to pick up a wire transfer. But if you give the scammer the test/security question information that is how they bypass the need for a picture id when picking up the money. This happens every day on sites like Craigslist. The scammer will pretend to be within the United States so as to not raise any red flags with the potential victim by mentioning that they are really in Nigeria.

With so many scams using wire transferring services like Western Union and MoneyGram we at Scam Victims United would like to see these companies increase their security by making it mandatory that the money must be picked up in the destination zone. If the documentation filled out by the customer says that the money is going to Detroit, Michigan, then the money should not be able to be picked up outside of the state of Michigan, no matter what information the person picking the money up has. This would help to reduce the number of scams going on because the scammers would then have to tell the victims to wire the money to Nigeria for them to be able to pick it up, and with so many people this would be a red flag because of the information about Nigerian scams.

In addition, wire transferring services could have a Fraud Alert posted in their store locations, and when anyone does fill out a wire transfer form and indicates Nigeria as the destination for the money to be picked up they could point out the Fraud Alert or have the customer sign a secondary document saying that they are aware that there are many internet scams coming out of the country of Nigeria which involve receiving a cashier’s check or money order and then wiring money.

Since we cannot go to other countries and arrest the people running these scams we must do as much as we can to provide the correct information to the American public to educate them about these scams. This means that everyone must do their part, including the wire transfer services that the scammers use as a part of their business. I would like to propose laws that would require wire transfer services to implement and follow such security measures.

Education is the key to fighting scams, and that is why we are also asking for scam education and awareness programs. To read more about this please go to http://www.change.org/actions/view/create_scam_education_and_awareness_programs

Another scam victim arrested

A while back I told you about a scam victim who was arrested. Stories like these always frustrate me because as a former scam victim I know the hurt and pain that you go through when you find out that you have been scammed, but these victims have that feeling plus more because they now have been arrested. They do not just face the financial recovery process that people like myself went through, but they also have to hire a lawyer to prove that they are the victim in the case and not the criminal. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

This victim was also responding to a Secret Shopper ad.

Here is the story of this latest scam victim in her own words . . .

I responded with all the requested information the next day. Shortly after I responded to this email I was asked by a local company to come into their office for an interview. I did and became very hopeful that I would get the job. I totally forgot about even responding to the Mystery Shopper email and wasn’t really expecting to hear anything from them. I few days later I received 2 Money Gram money orders @ $998.00 each sent to me via Fed Ex overnight mail. No other documents were inside. I couldn’t figure out where these came from and was not even thinking about that one email response I sent for the Mystery Shopper position. I had read an email in my AOL inbox a week or two before that I was a part of a class action lawsuit against AOL for some “footer” issue. I assumed these checks may have been a result of the class action suit since I had 2 screen names with AOL. I attempted to call Money Gram and went online and could not get any information regarding the tracking numbers on them. NO ONE EVER EVEN MENTIONED POSSIBLE FRAUD. When I went to the Money Gram station at the local Lucky store (in the town I have lived for 34 years and am now raising my 13 year old son) to cash these money orders I was arrested immediately. I was frisked, my car searched my purse emptied all in front of the Lucky store here in the quaint little community where most people know everyone. The 3 responding officers were absolutely sure that I was some check fraud “ring leader!” They would ask me where the money orders came from, I would answer telling them that they were sent via UPS next day air but I was unsure by who. Then I was told to shut up and stop lying. One officer told me “you and I both know no one sent these to you. You made these yourself” I was then “escorted” to Alameda County Jail where I remained for the next 10 hours until my $10,000.00 bail bond (for check fraud) was processed.

Once released from jail I made it my mission to catch this dirty rotten scum bag who was responsible for what I had been through. So…..I responded to an email that he had sent to me (which I didn’t even open until about 2 days after I was released from jail) indicating that he sent the package and instructions and he needs me to follow through with this task immediately (of sending his payment via Western Union) I played along with this guy to try to obtain as much information as I could. I advised him that the money orders were cashed and to please call me as I was a bit confused about something regarding his instructions. He called, about every other minute from that moment through the next 4 days. Once even forgetting to *67 therefore I was able to obtain his NIGERIAN telephone number. He even went so far as to send me text messages!!! He thought I had his money and he wanted it. I recorded our phone conversation on my MAC I MOVIE. I tracked down the gentleman whose email address they had hacked and were using to send the initial correspondence. He lived in S. Africa and was the administrator of a fishing forum. I explained to him my situation and advised him to contact the FBI before they contacted him as I had already given them his email information on my FBI report of this incident. He was grateful that I had taken so much of my time to track him down and explain this situation to him so that he could cancel his email address they were using before they had sent any further damaging money orders out to innocent people. I thought that since the local police didn’t really care about catching these losers that I would!!

I have since retained a very good lawyer. We have met with the DA who still is unsure whether he plans to file charges against me or not. I appeared in court last week and at that time there were no charges filed yet BUT THE CASE WAS NOT DROPPED EITHER!!! I go back to court November 5th.

Ever since this happened I cannot STOP talking about it. It helps for me to get past the anger. Initially, I was consumed by researching scammers, trying to catch this guy and others like him. Then I realized that law enforcement officials are inexperienced and unequipped to handle situations like mine. They are not interested in catching the people responsible and therefore I needed to direct my ager somewhere else and for that reason, I would love to tell my story in hopes to make people aware of these scammers.

Why do scammers love Craigslist?

Many websites have become infested with scammers, but Craigslist seems to be one of the places that the scammers really love to hang out. Why is that?

Variety of categories – In the past, when a scammer wanted to find a victim for their overpayment scams they had to go to a website were people were selling items, usually of large value. If they wanted to find a victim for an employment scam, they had to go to a site where people were posting their resumes. If they wanted to find a victim for a romance or dating scam, they would have to go to a dating website. If you wanted to find a victim for renter or roommate scam, you had to go to a site where people were posting housing information. With Craigslist, you can find all of those people in the different categories on the same site.

Includes the entire country – There are other classified ad sites that would have the same variety of categories that Craigslist has, but they are usually for a certain geographic location. If the scammer wants to try and find more victims, they would have to go to another classified ad site that is targeted towards another geographic location. With Craigslist all the scammer has to do is click on a new city and state for their search location and they have a entirely different group of victims to try and bring into their scam.

It’s free – Not only is Craigslist free for people to post or creating listings, but it is also free to people looking at those listings. This works to the scammer’s advantage. If the scammer is the one placing the listing, for a Secret Shopper job for example, they do not have to pay anything to place that advertisement. Many of the sites that require you to pay to post have a lower number of scams posted simply due to the fact that the scammer is there to make money, and not to spend it. It works the other way too . . . if the scammer is the one searching the posted ads for their next victim, they do not have to pay anything to have access to those listings.

Craigslist does have warning information on their site, and I think that some of their warnings should hold true if you are using their site or another classified ad site.

Deal with local buyers and sellers. If you sell your item and you need to have it shipped someplace you are taking a greater risk. If you deal locally, you can arrange to meet the person face to face to exchange money and the item for sale.

Never wire funds to someone you only know via email conversations. Scammers use services like Western Union and MoneyGram in their scams because they know that once the money is wired off and picked up on the other end there is no way to recover the money. Also, since they are overseas, our law enforcement in the United States cannot just go and pick them up for taking your money. It becomes an issue for the government and law enforcement in the country that they live in. This all goes back to jurisdiction, which we talked about in the past, and you can review here.

One thing that I think that Craigslist could add to their posted warning is that a cashier’s check could take 10 business days or more to go through the clearing process. Just because you take the check to the bank and they tell you that it has cleared, or that it will be verified as good in 24 hours does not mean that the bank knows for sure that this check was written on a good account and has the funds in that account to cover the check. This is the information that is missing from so many of the current internet scam warnings, but is also the piece of information that could save so many scam victims. So why don’t the places that post the warnings understand this and include this information? Personally, I feel it is because they are thinking as a “business” and not as a scam victims, and that is one thing that I can do since I have been there myself.

Had we known back in October of 2002 that the check could take up to 10 business days to go through the entire clearing process and that until that happened we would be liable for the entire amount of the check, then there is no way we would have wired any money off any sooner than 10 business days . . . actually, my husband and I had promised each other that what ever amount of time the bank said to wait to be safe we were going to double to be extra safe, so like I said, if they would have been honest with us there is no way we would have become scam victims.

More on Secret Shopper Scams

For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

We have spoken with representatives at both Western Union and Money Gram. Money Gram does NOT use Secret Shoppers as a normal business practice. Western Union does use Secret Shoppers, but the shoppers are NEVER paid by cashier’s check or money order. If you have been contacted to shop Western Union or Money Gram, and it involves you receiving a cashier’s check or money order, IT IS A SCAM.

Often, the email address used by the representative of the company “hiring” you will be coming from a generic email address, and not one associated with that company. For further assurance, search out that company on your own and contact them for verification.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Consumer Federation of America

This Press Release was from May 27, 2009

http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/Fake_Check_PR_5-27-09.pdf

 

CFA Task Force Aims to “Tear Up” Fake Check Scams

 

Survey Shows Over a Million Consumers are Being Swindled

 

Washington DC – Today, the Consumer Federation of America is launching a national campaign to combat fake check scams.  Millions of consumers are lured into accepting genuine-looking checks and money orders and wiring money to crooks in return.  According to the results of a CFA survey, nearly one third of adults have been approached with fake check scams and at least 1.3 million have become actual victims. With an average loss of $3,000 to $4,000 per consumer, billions of dollars have been pocketed by fake check scammers. “In today’s economy, as consumers struggle to make ends meet, vulnerability is at an all-time high. Phony claims of sudden riches or ways to make money have never been more attractive,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection. CFA created a Fake Check Task Force to help raise awareness about these scams and protect consumers.

 

The telephone survey of 2,000 adults conducted for CFA by Opinion Research Corporation December 4-8, 2008 revealed that the most common fake check scams are those involving sweepstakes/lotteries (66 percent), grants (36 percent) and work-at-home opportunities (35 percent). In the sweepstakes and grant scenarios, the consumer receives a check or money order with instructions to wire a portion of the money to pay taxes or administrative fees. In the phony job offers, consumers are asked to process payments for a foreign business or make purchases as a mystery shopper and wire the remaining money to their employer minus their “pay.” Another popular variation of the scam is the “overpayment,” where the scammer offers to buy something the consumer has advertised for sale, sends a check or money order for more than the asking price, and tells the consumer to wire the extra to someone who will arrange for shipping.  

 

         “The check or money order is phony, and so is the person’s story,” explained Grant. “Unfortunately, the consumer usually doesn’t learn that until after sending the money.”  Federal law requires financial institutions to give consumers access to the money from checks or money orders they deposit quickly, usually within 1-5 business days, but just because funds are available doesn’t mean the check or money order is good. It may take weeks for the counterfeit to be discovered. When it is, the consumer is on the hook to repay the bank, credit union, or check cashing service.

 

Compounding the problem is consumer misunderstanding. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents in CFA’s survey incorrectly believe that when you deposit a check or money order, your bank confirms that it is good before allowing you to withdraw the money. The number goes up to 70 percent among young adults age 18-24, and 71 percent of people with incomes under $25,000 and who did not complete high school. More than 40 percent of those surveyed do not know that they are liable if the checks or money orders they deposit or cash are counterfeit. Fifty-two percent age 18-24 and half of Hispanics incorrectly said the person who gave you the check must pay the bank back.

 

Another factor is the fact that the scammers are hard to pursue. They often operate from Canada and other foreign countries, making it more difficult for U.S. law enforcement agencies to bring legal action against them, and they cover their tracks by picking up the money in cash and using phony identification.

 

Created in May 2008, CFA’s Fake Check Task Force brings nonprofit consumer organizations, law enforcement and consumer protection agencies, financial service companies, and other businesses and trade associations together to fight these scams through greater education and awareness. The campaign has several elements, including new information in English and Spanish about grant and mystery shopping scams on the National Consumers League’s www.fakechecks.org Web site and an ecard on the site that consumers can send to warn others about fake check scams. At www.consumerfed.org/fakecheckscams there are several new CFA resources for consumer education including a fact sheet and ready-to-use news articles in English and Spanish, and links to other materials.

 

The CFA Fake Check Task Force has also developed training materials about fake check scams for financial service companies and law enforcement and consumer protection agencies.  They explain how these scams work, suggest strategies for preventing victimization, offer advice about how to help victims, and provide resources for investigations and public education. These materials are not intended for the general public.

Consumer Tips to “Tear Up” Fake Check Scams

 

·  Never agree to pay to claim a prize. No legitimate sweepstakes or lottery would ever send you a check or money order and ask you to send payment in return. If you really won, you would pay taxes directly to the government.

 

·  Never agree to pay for grants from the government or foundations. They don’t offer money to people unexpectedly or charge to get it. Most grants go to organizations, not individuals, and require a lengthy and extensive application process. See new tips on grant scams at http://www.fakechecks.org/prevention-faqs04.html

 

·  Never agree to cash checks and send the money somewhere as part of a job working from home. That is not how legitimate employers operate. See new tips on mystery shopping scams at http://www.fakechecks.org/prevention-faqs05.html

 

·  Never agree to wire money to anyone you have not met in person and known for a long time.

 

·  If it seems suspicious, get advice. Consult your state or local consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the Postal Inspection Service, or another trusted source.

 

·  Remember that there is no legitimate reason why anyone who wants to give you a check or money order for something would ever ask you to send money anywhere in return. Go to www.fakechecks.org to learn more about how to protect yourself from fake check scams.

Looking for Victims

I am working with a consumer advocacy group and they are looking for recent victims who are willing to talk to the press and have compelling stories to tell – people who lost money, especially in the lottery/sweepstakes, grants, and work-at-home variations of fake check scams.

This could turn into somethng VERY big that would help MANY others from becoming scam victims.

Would you be willing to speak with them?   If so, contact me and I would be more than happy to share more details on this with you.

Chris Hanson and Dateline take on Secret Shopper and Work at Home Scams

I have only watched a portion of this segment, but I had to post it right away.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/30070044#30070115