Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Nigerian Check Scam

Counterfeit Check Overpayment Fraud

09/07 - Abuja - Nigerian anti-fraud police intercepted more than 15 000 counterfeit cheques in just one month during a crackdown on fraudsters using postal services in Lagos, the force said on Wednesday.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had worked with US and British investigators to sift through tonnes of mail in search of fraudulent documents sent by Nigerian "advance fee" conmen.

The so-called advance fee fraud involves sending people emails requesting their help in exporting a lump sum from Nigeria. Victims are promised a share of the cash and asked for their bank details.

"The exercise saw agents of the three law enforcement agencies poring through tonnes of outward bound packages in the pre-exporting mail processing centres of the Nigerian Postal Service and private courier companies," the EFCC said.

In all, 15 129 counterfeit cheques related to advance fee fraud scams were intercepted. The operations opened up new investigation vistas leading to the arrest and prosecution of a number of suspects," it said of the operation which ended on August 16.

The EFCC, created in 2003, has tried to curb financial scams that have become a Nigerian specialty. Nigeria is seen as a major source of financial crime in several countries.

The EFCC has secured numerous convictions against email scammers, including a group of fraudsters who stole $242-million from a Brazilian bank.

In Britain, a report published last November found that Internet scams, credit card fraud, money laundering operations and forged cheques and postal orders originating in Nigeria were costing Britons millions of pounds every year.


Nigerian Counterfeit Check Scam Victim Loses Money

12/06 - A counterfeit check scam has cost a Salina man $50,000, Salina Police Department officials said Wednesday.

The victim, Garry Peterson, 59, 2302 Village Lane, told officers he was involved in a business deal and earlier this month received by mail two checks -- one for $99,000.40, and the other for $7,500.

He deposited both checks at his bank. Soon after, he received a call from the issuer saying there had been a clerical error and that Peterson should return $50,000. He did.

Deputy Police Chief Mike Marshall said it was learned later that both checks Peterson deposited were counterfeit. The case is under investigation.

Marshall said the scam is a common one and that people should be wary when asked to deposit checks and return a portion of the money.

One precaution, he said, is to make sure the checks clear the bank before making any use of the money.


Nigerian Check Distributor Scam Victims Lose $40k

12/06 - Two Windward O'ahu residents who thought they had been hired by legitimate foreign companies to distribute checks were in fact victims of a scheme that's left them on the hook for $80,000.

One victim is a Kane'ohe businessman who negotiated a contract with a Japanese company.

The other is the wife of a Kane'ohe Bay Marine who filled out an online application in August with a Chinese corporation claiming to be a subsidiary of oil giant Sunoco Inc.

Both believed they would be acting as "check distributors" for companies.

After being "hired," the local residents agreed to receive checks from these companies and keep a percentage while wiring large sums to accounts in China and Japan, police said.

Unwittingly, both the man and woman were about to cash fraudulent checks and wire the money back to the perpetrators.

The checks from the "foreign companies" initially cleared the local banks, and the residents were each able to wire $40,000 to accounts in Japan and China as instructed by their employers, police said.

But federal regulators discovered that the checks deposited by the residents were counterfeit, and the banks are holding the residents responsible for the funds.

There is little law enforcement can do to hold anyone overseas responsible for counterfeiting the checks and perpetrating the fraud.

The two Windward residents fell victim to a new twist on an old scheme: the "Nigerian letter fraud."

The scheme involves people who often claim to be with a foreign government or foreign company who send letters or e-mails, saying they are willing to share large sums of money in return for bank account information or a person cashing what turn out to be fraudulent checks and wiring the money to other accounts.

What most fraud victims don't realize is that they become responsible for the money they deposit into their account once they cash the check.

The burden of proving the check's legitimacy falls on the customer, not the bank, according to police and prosecutors.

"These cases are very difficult to investigate and prosecute," said city deputy prosecutor Chris Van Marter. "Advance fee scams like this pose difficult problems for law enforcement.

It requires the cooperation not only from law enforcement officials in Hawai'i but in the foreign country. In my experience, we hear about these schemes in the prosecutor's office every week.

It's not an easy task to obtain financial documents from foreign financial institutions, and trying to identify the suspect associated with the account is much more difficult."

If caught and extradited — a task made more complicated by the nebulous web of international extradition treaties between governments — advance fee scam perpetrators face numerous charges, including first-degree fraud, second-degree forgery, and identity theft.

Police investigate each formal complaint made, Van Marter said, but local law enforcement has neither jurisdiction nor resources in foreign countries where the perpetrators are usually living.

Makoto Hinai, senior consul at the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu, said he has never heard of a group of Japanese criminals targeting Hawai'i residents during his 3 1/2 years in Honolulu.

The Japanese consul in Honolulu coordinates with local law enforcement when contacted about possible frauds and other crimes committed by or against Japanese citizens.

Hinai, however, acknowledged that communication between Japanese law enforcement and local police can be complicated.

"When it involves criminal investigations, we will do what we can do here to help them," he said yesterday. "We are always willing to help, but government-to-government contacts (at the law enforcement level) all must be handled by our embassy in Washington, D.C."

(Honolulu Advertiser)

Depositor of Nigerian Bogus Check Scam Arrested

03/06 - (PA) A Leechburg man is in jail awaiting a preliminary hearing for allegedly working with Nigerian scam artists in what authorities say included an unusually large amount of bogus checks.

Officials say the scam unfurled when Charles Porter, 47, of 16 Main St., Apt. 3, allegedly tried to cash some of the bogus checks -- written out for a total of $150,000 -- in Leechburg.

Porter was arrested Feb. 27 after he allegedly walked into a Main Street bank and tried to cash $5,000 worth of cashier and treasurer's checks from the country of Aruba, Officer Mike Diebold said.

The bank refused and called police.

Diebold said police didn't make the arrest public until Monday because they first consulted with federal agents.

Officers obtained a search warrant and found about $145,000 in other bogus foreign cashier or travelers checks in numerous envelopes -- each containing about $5,000 worth of the checks.

The envelopes were inside a larger envelope postmarked from Nigeria, Diebold said.

Porter is charged with attempted theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, having counterfeit trademarks on the documents and tampering with records or identification.

Bruce Hammerle, who supervises the financial crimes task force of Southwestern Pennsylvania, said a federal agent has talked with Leechburg police and reviewed the case. On Monday, it was unclear if the case will be prosecuted in county or federal court.

Porter is being held in the Armstrong County Jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bond.

In one common scam, a Nigerian contacts someone who has something to sell on the Internet and then sends them much more money than is need to buy the item.

The check recipient is asked to cash the checks, keep $200 and send the rest of the cash to them.

"By the time the bank finds out, the person who cashed the checks is responsible to pay the money," Diebold said.

Hammerle said it's not unusual for a middle man of sorts to surface in some role with Nigerian scam artists. However, he said it was unusual for such a man to have that amount of bogus checks.

Hammerle said that it is difficult prosecuting someone operating from another country, but it could be done.

"It's hard to prosecute people overseas. But, yes, it's possible," Hammerle said.

(Valley News Dispatch)

Update: 03/06

An Armstrong County man suspected of being involved in a Nigerian scam operation will stand trial after authorities said he tried to cash fake overseas checks totaling $5,000.

Charles Porter, 47, of Leechburg, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges of attempted theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, having counterfeit trademarks on documents and tampering with records or identification.

Porter was arrested Feb. 27 after having attempted to cash $5,000 worth of Aruban cashier and treasurer's checks at a Leechburg bank. The bank refused and called authorities.

Police said they believe Porter was working with Nigerian scam artists. Police said they found $145,000 in bogus checks when they searched his apartment.

The checks were inside envelopes that each held about $5,000 worth of checks. The smaller envelopes were inside a larger one postmarked from Nigeria.

Authorities said they also found a home computer believed to have been used in the scam.

Porter is being held at Armstrong County Jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bond.

Earlier this month, District Judge Michael Gerheim ordered Porter to find an attorney. Porter, who apparently has too much money in the bank to qualify for a public defender, told Gerheim that he was too confused to hire an attorney.

Porter's daughters told Gerheim that Porter fell and suffered brain damage in 2002. The judge then asked them to help their father find a lawyer.

Counterfeit Check Deposit Scam Warning

Bank customers should be cautious if asked to repay money mistakenly credited to them as it could be a scam, a major bank warns.

This especially applied to cheque deposits, Absa said in a statement.

"The customer often assumes that a genuine mistake has been made and refunds the deposit," said Chris van Rensburg, Absa forensic investigations head.

"Only later, when the deposited cheque fails to clear and the 'refund' has been made, is it obvious that fraud has been committed."

Check scam red flag warning

Customers should look out for a number of red flags.

First, unsolicited deposits of worthless cheques were made into accounts.

Victims then got a fax, with an official-looking letterhead claiming to be from a large corporation which said a deposit had been mistakenly made.

An immediate refund was requested to a provided bank account in the corporation's name.

The victim was pressured to urgently respond and asked to repay the funds electronically, usually via internet banking.

Wait for check deposits to clear

Absa said customers should wait for all cheque deposits to be cleared before making any payments against them, especially if the person requesting a refund was not known.

The source of the deposit should also be verified with the bank.

"Often victims are advised that the deposit to their account was cash when in fact it was a cheque deposit."

More examples at Counterfeit Cashier's Check, Nigerian Scams.