Online money scam comes to Lockhart


By LPR Staff

Carla Duplantis, who recently moved to the Lockhart area with her family, posted her resume on online job-search engine, hoping to find employment. Instead, she was targeted by a con artist hoping to rob her of thousands of dollars.
“I got a response to my ad from a guy who said he was in England,” she said. “He said tha

t he couldn”t cash U.S. Postal Service money orders in England, and wanted me to help him.”
Duplantis said that she was skeptical, but curious when she responded to the e-mail. A few days later, without warning, a package arrived at her door, via Federal Express.
“My address and everything was on my resume,” she said. “I guess that”s how he got it, because I didn”t give it to him. That”s something that people don”t think about when they look for jobs online.”
The package contained several U.S. Postal Service money orders for up to $750 each. The sender instructed Duplantis to cash the money orders, keep 10 percent of the total as payment and send the remaining funds to Nigeria through a wire transfer.
Before taking the money orders to the bank, Duplantis decided to check with the local post office. Her hesitation saved her from being victimized and losing nearly $6,000.
“The counterfeits were really good,” she said. “They looked real, and even the people at the post office weren”t sure until they tracked the serial numbers. That”s the only reason we found out that they were fakes.”
She said that Postmaster Linda Jones contacted federal authorities, including the Postmaster General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Jones could not comment on the situation. However, the United States Postal Service website warned customers of similar scams as early as 2004.
According to Internet research, several variations on the scam exist. Most originate through chat rooms and auction websites, but cases have been reported where victims were contacted either through unsolicited “spam” e-mail, or over the telephone.
Usually, the con artist claims to be in need of cash and unable to cash money orders in a foreign country. Some will offer to buy items from auction websites with money orders or cashiers checks and send additional funds, requesting that the seller keep the sale price and wire transfer the balance.
Money orders, much like standard checks, do not always clear the bank immediately. Often, banks will make the funds available to victims and then realize days later that the money orders were counterfeit. Scammers such as the one that contacted Duplantis count on this fact. Usually, by the time the money orders are rejected, the wire transfer has already been completed and the funds collected.
In a written statement issued on Dec. 7, 2004, the Postal Service reminded customers to protect themselves.
“Most lures promising quick-and-easy money are cast by fraudsters,” the statement said. “These scam artists can easily connect to a sea of strangers through the Internet and dangle promising treats, hoping someone will bite. Don”t take the bait.”
To report a fraud complaint, call the U.S. Postal Service Fraud Complaint Hotline at (800) 372-8347. If you suspect that someone has sent counterfeit cashiers checks or money orders, contact the local authorities immediately.


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