Scammers are getting smarter
April 27, 2006
Heidi Zimmerman was almost bilked out of nearly $4,000 this month in an increasingly popular scam that local law officials say they are now seeing about once a week.
Zimmerman, a Truckee resident, posted her Reno rental property on Craigslist, an Internet classifieds forum, and soon thereafter received an e-mail from an interested person in England.
O RED FLAG: Be cautious about doing business outside state or national borders.
Through e-mail correspondence, “Ed Walker” told Zimmerman he would send her a check for the $2,800 deposit, but the payment, Zimmerman said, came in the form of a $7,800 check from the state of Illinois.
O RED FLAG: Watch for anybody who wants to send you money ” people just don’t give money away.
To make an already questionable transaction even more mysterious was the fact that Walker wanted Zimmerman to then wire the extra $4,000 to two separate “home decorators” in England via wire transfer.
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O RED FLAG: When money is sent out of the country, it becomes virtually impossible for law enforcement officials to investigate due to jurisdictional lines.
Zimmerman wired the $4,000 to two women in England, but when Walker went to pick up the orders, the MoneyGram company wouldn’t release it to him because the names on the money orders had been flagged, Zimmerman said. Had MoneyGram not been aware, Walker would have walked with the money.
Zimmerman only found out that funds had not been released when she called MoneyGram herself to check on the order’s status.
“Some people say it’s the oldest trick in the book, and others have just been blown away when I tell them the story,” Zimmerman said.
It’s not the oldest trick, but according to Truckee police Sgt. Tim Hargrove, it is one of the most prevalent, enough so that he is seeing about one new report each week in Truckee.
“Almost all the time, the scam is through the Internet and (involves) people from out of the country,” Hargrove said. “Most of the time the money they send you is not guaranteed, and they will get your money before their own check clears.”
Unfortunately, Internet scams aren’t the only way residents have been losing money lately, Hargrove said.
Banks and police officers have seen illegally printed checks that have legitimate bank account numbers on them.
On Monday, Truckee police responded to a report of a Reno woman attempting to pass an $18,000 fictitious/counterfeit check at Wells Fargo Bank, according to a press release from Truckee police. The bank teller noticed the account did not have sufficient funds to cover the check, contacted the account holder, and was advised the check was fraudulent and the account holder did not know the person attempting to pass the check.
“If the check looks suspicious, it will not be cleared,” said Susan Holloway, customer service manager at Bank of the West.
But if no one catches it, the money will be taken from the noted account number. In that instance, the person who lost the money would probably be covered by the bank, and the bank would be the victim.
Perhaps more appalling is the fact that a number of mail boxes in the Donner Lake area were recently pried open and their contents stolen, Hargrove said.
“This is the type of activity that these people use to get bank statements and credit card information,” Hargrove said.