Internet Scams Exposed

SCAM WATCH: Internet & SMS Scams - Phishing - Email Fraud

These emails and text messages are real examples of current scams. Learn to identify them. Please forward any scams you receive to Mark Hutten: mbhutten@yahoo.com. They will be posted on this site without your email address.

What To Do If You Have Been Scammed

Have you lost money due to a scam?

Email: mbhutten@gmail.com with a description of how the scam worked (i.e., what happened exactly), and we will try to (a) locate the scam artist(s), (b) work with law enforcement to expedite prosecution, and (c) help you get some - or all - of your money back.

23.2.11

Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam

Counterfeit cashier's check scam:

Real estate—

Landlords placing advertisements on Craigslist or rent.com receive an e-mail response from a prospective renter from a foreign country, typically a student fresh out of secondary education (college in the U.K., high school in the U.S.). The first inquiry seems legitimate. The second usually comes with request for more information, and an attachment from a fake company set up by the scam artist indicating that the "student" has won a part time scholarship from the company. (The fraudster will often set up a fake website for the company, in order to make the attachment seem legitimate.) The scam comes with the third e-mail: a request for the victim's name and address so that the "company" can send a cashier's check to cover the rent and the "student's" travel costs.

The victim is instructed to cash the check and wire the difference back to the student so that they can travel to the destination country. In the United States, banks consider cashier's checks to be "guaranteed funds" and will typically cash them instantly. However, unlike a certified check, the bank that cashes a cashier's check can still take back the money from the depositor if the check is counterfeit or "bounces". Because of the lag between the cashing and clearing of the check, the victim does not realize that they have been had until their account is debited for the amount they wired to the fraudster, plus any fees for the bounced check.

Automotive—

In this variation, a fraudster feigns interest in a vehicle for sale on the Internet. The "buyer" explains that he represents a client who is interested in the car, but due to an earlier sale that fell through, he has a cashier's check made out for thousands more than the asking price. The scammer requests that the victim cash the check and refund the balance via wire transfer. If the seller agrees to the transaction, the fraudstser sends the counterfeit cashier's check via express courier (typically from Nigeria). The victim takes the check to their bank, which makes the funds available immediately. Thinking the bank has cleared the check, the seller follows through on the transaction by wiring the balance to the buyer. Days later, the check bounces, and the victim is responsible for the amount they wired to the fraudster, plus any fees associated with the bounced check.

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