Fraud victim advocacy, fraud recoginition and prevention education, and law enforcement support

fraud recognition & prevention education, fraud victim advocacy, law enforcement support

Fraud recognition & prevention education, fraud victim advocacy, law enforcement support

                    

Silence is fraud's best friend.  Word of mouth is fraud's worst enemy.  Pass the word!TM

 

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Farsi

What to do if you are a Payment Processing Scam Victim

 

Processing or reshipping money, envelopes, and merchandise scams

There is a lot of information on this page covering all the different things that happen to people who have become involved in these scams.  Please take your time; read through the material carefully.

•  Work-at-Home

Payment Processing

Donation Processing

Investment Processing

Bad Debt Collection Processing

Package / Merchandise / Envelope / Check or Money Order Reshipping

Re-wiring Western Union or MoneyGram payments

Check Writing

You have been employed or hired by a foreign company to handle money or reship merchandise.

 

NOTE:  It has been our experience that when the company claims to be domestic to the country in which you reside, this is only part of the scam.  Web sites giving the appearance of being in your own country have been registered using the name of residents who are Identity Theft victims.

•  Overpayment Scam (you are sent more money from a buyer than the cost of the item)

You have been sent too much money for something you are selling, renting, leasing, and have been asked to send the overpayment to a shipper or any other 3rd party.

• Relationship, Sweetheart, Online Dating, Minister, Charity, Child of Dead Parent, Hardship, Inheritance, etc.

You have been asked by a someone you met online to help them with money or shipments.  See Work-at-Home above.

What is happening: You are being asked to launder stolen money and merchandise.

ARRESTS:

If you have been arrested, know you are facing arrest, or are under formal investigation for this or any other scam:

Arrested Fraud Victim  •  Fraud Victim at Risk of Arrest

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The basics of the scams for residents of all countries :

• The majority of the fraud groups are located in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Canada, India, and Africa, but fraud group members reside in nearly every country on the planet.  A male-dominated industry, the scams are created and developed by Eastern European and Nigerian  scammers.

• Nothing you have been told by the scammers is true.  Everything is a lie.

• Names and titles mean nothing.  The only thing that counts is what you are being asked to do.

• The names and titles are fake.  The phones are pre-paid, anonymous, untraceable cell phones.  Land lines are often located in hotel rooms, backrooms, and boiler rooms; in other words, temporary locations.

• Phone numbers located in Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong or other Asian locales can easily be for forwarding phones, meaning that they may sitting almost anywhere in that part of the world with instructions given not to answer any calls.  The call you make to that phone can be automatically transferred to any other phone anywhere in the world and may be actually answered in Amsterdam, London, Lagos, or Pretoria.  This is true of all land line telephones used by scammers.

• The company name is fake.  If you find a company of the same name (such as AGIP or Shell Oil), it has nothing to do with those who are corresponding with you.  Legitimate companies have no need to run money through any private person.

• The name your friend or sweetheart gave you is fake.  Romance scams and relationship scams are frequently operated by men located in Eastern Europe (Russia, Romania, Latvia, the Ukraine) and by Nigerian scammers in Nigeria or Western Europe (not to be confused with Russian Bride Scams, which are operated by women.)  You may be speaking with a woman on the phone, but in most instances a man is writing the emails. 

• The money you send to an Asian or a Kuwait bank account does not sit in the account for very long.  Bank accounts can be opened online with signature documents submitted by surface mail, and the funds can be moved to other geographical locations through online banking.  If you send money to an Asian bank, even if your bank contacts the Asian bank to retrieve the funds, in most instances the return of the funds will be refused.

• If you are asked to accept and forward money or packages, you are setting yourself up in business as a forwarding agent.  That means you must have a license to do so, must be bonded and insured, and abide by the laws of your country, state, county, or Province for such activity. 

Forwarding packages or money

You must account for each item you forward, keep books, file tax reports, etc.

Forwarding packages: To be a forwarding agent or reshipper you must be bonded, insured and licensed to do so within the laws of your country, state, and county.  If you have been asked through email or chat room correspondence or by telephone to reship merchandise to another country that was purchased in your country, you can bet that the merchandise was purchased with stolen credit cards.  You are facilitating a crime, receiving and reshipping stolen property, and are at risk of arrest and conviction.

Forwarding money: As a private individual, you cannot, cannot, cannot accept payments made to you personally that are in payment for products and services provided by another.

Unless you are a legally registered, licensed, and bonded payment processing company, you can ONLY accept money designated for another if you are depositing the money into a bank account in the company or individual's name for whom the funds are intended and whose signature cards are signed by that account holder.  Only the account holder may remove funds from that account, not you.

Payment processing companies exist all over the world.  They accept money for credit card payments and money for products.  When making an online purchase or setting up a scheduled credit card payment, it is not unusual to receive an email notice that your credit card statement will list the deduction as a payment to XYZ company when you purchased a product from ABC company.  However, those companies operate under the laws of their state and country, have strict internal controls, and understand the rules of compliance.

 

If you are acting as a collection agent or reshipper, by law you must familiarize yourself with the state and federal laws governing collection agents and you must open a business and a business account for the specific purpose of receiving payments from overdue debtors.

You must have an attorney draft a contract for your clients to sign, and your clients must abide by the laws of your country and state regardless of their location.

You must abide by all internal control, compliance, and reporting regulations of the country and state in which your business is operating.

Business payments are not sent through Western Union or MoneyGram.  This leaves no money trail and the funds can be picked up at any Western Union or MoneyGram office, regardless of the office you specified on your wire instructions, by anyone with the correct code or [fake] ID.

Examples:

If I buy something at Walmart, I have to pay Walmart; not you.

If I am making an investment, the money must be deposited into an investment account, not your account. 

If I am making a donation to a charity, the money must go to the charity, not to you, and you cannot legally issue me a tax deductible receipt for my contribution.

Money wired into your account 

Any bank anywhere in the world can wire money to any other bank in another part of the world with no problem.  Money wired bank-to-bank is the same as cash. 

Any money you receive by wire into your bank or credit card account that pertains to your "job" has been stolen from another account holder whose bank account has been invaded by hackers.  When the scammers ask you to open an account at a particular bank, you can be certain that whatever funds you receive were illegally obtained from another account at the same bank.

• Any company or individual, anywhere, can open an account in another country to process payments made in that country. 

Example: If Fraud Aid, Inc. had a customer base in the UK, it would open a UK bank account. 

It would then hire an accounting (or bookkeeping) firm in the UK to accept Euro payments, depositing checks made payable to Fraud Aid, Inc. into the Fraud Aid UK account.  The accounting firm would not be able to make withdrawals from the account or write checks on the account. 

The accounting firm would file Fraud Aid income tax forms for UK taxes (which a Fraud Aid corporate officer would have to sign) and provide an accounting to Fraud Aid of UK expenses.  The accounting firm would be paid by check written on the UK account and signed by a Fraud Aid officer.

• You must pay your taxes on all income, including any commissions earned, regardless of where or how earned those commissions were obtained and regardless of the geographical location of those paying you the commissions.

•  Money sent by Western Union or MoneyGram is untraceable once it has been picked up.  Funds sent by this method can be picked up at any Western Union or MoneyGram office regardless of where you sent it.  This is not how business is conducted. 

Exception: some companies, such as car loan companies, have Western Union and MoneyGram accounts specifically designated to receive payments for that company.  This maintains the money trail (paper trail).

• You are 100% responsible and liable for any check or money order you endorse and cash, and for any funds placed into your bank or credit union account, whether you deposited the money or someone else did.

By law you must repay the bank, credit union, or store when you have deposited or cashed checks or money orders (drafts) that proved to be of no value.  It is the same in all countries, at all financial institutions and stores. 

Your signature on the back of a draft is a contract stating that you take full legal and financial responsibility for that draft.   This is called an endorsement, meaning you endorse or approve of the check because you have personal knowledge that the draft is good and true.

When you opened your account at a bank or credit union, by signing the signature card you agreed to be take full legal and financial responsibility for anything that is deposited into your account by you or anyone else.

Writing and signing checks

You cannot legally write your name on any account unless you have properly identified yourself with the bank and have signed the signature card. 

To be named a signatory on an account that is not your own, the account holder must clearly state that it is his or her wish that you be authorized to sign checks.  To authorize you to sign on his account, the account holder must complete a new signature card which you must also sign.  Before your signature is accepted by the account holder's bank, you must present valid identification to the bank, just like the account holder had to do when he opened the account.

To sign a check on an account that is not yours and on which you have not been listed as an authorized signer (see above) is a criminal act called forgery and you can be arrested, convicted, and sent to jail for committing forgery. 

To paste a person's signature on a check is a criminal act called forgery and you can be arrested, convicted and sent to jail for committing forgery.  A check is not valid unless the check itself has been signed.

The basics: An explanation of the scam
Your Identity Theft Prevention To Do List << EVERYBODY MUST GO HERE

In all these scams, Identity Theft is a major element and you are at serious risk.  We cannot stress how devastating Identity Theft will be for you, nor how valuable your personal information is to the scammers - even if you have bad credit your identity is sold to illegal aliens, drug runners, and gun runners - nor how determined they are to acquire even a small amount of personal information from you and your computer.

What to do if: Click on the link that best suits your current situation

•

The scammers are threatening you
• You have received packages
• You have not received any packages yet but have been told you will be
• You have not received any checks or money orders yet but have been told you will be
• You have received checks or money orders and still have them in hand
• You deposited checks or money orders, or have had funds wired into your bank account or credit card account, but have not sent off the money

You are not in any trouble, you are not going to be arrested, no one is going to come looking for you.  These instructions will back you out of the mess.

Drafts you or someone else deposited into your checking or savings account

Funds wired to your checking or savings account

Funds wired into your credit card account

• You cashed the checks or money orders at a bank or store and still have the money
• You cashed or deposited checks or money orders and have sent the money: dealing with the bank - dealing with the check cashing store
• You receive calls from people you never heard of who want to know when their product is going to be delivered
• The bank or store is threatening you

Getting the money back

Catching the criminals

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What to do

• Segregate all email correspondence from the scammers into a folder in your email box.

• Stop all correspondence with the scammers.  Do not open their emails, do not speak with them on the phone.  If they persist in calling you, blow a whistle into the phone.

They are only interested in you if you are sending them money.  They are not interested in anything else you have to say.  If you tell them you have reported the counterfeit drafts to the police, they won't care - unless they have spent a lot of money buying the counterfeit drafts and have not seen any profits.  In that case, they may threaten you out of rage.

• If you are receiving threats from the scammers, go here: http://www.fraudaid.com/threats.htm

• If you are receiving threats from the bank or store, please understand that they want to intimidate you into returning the money.  They just want their money back and will sometimes say anything to get it.  Please go here for more information about your rights and what you can and cannot do.

• In all instances, you are at risk of Identity Theft.  Please go to this page and follow all the instructions that apply to you: http://www.fraudaid.com/ID_theft.htm

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• If you have received packages:

  1. If you have been receiving packages, and have sent some off to the addresses on the labels supplied to you by the scammers, please file a report with your local Main Post Office.  Letters and packages fall under the jurisdiction of the US Postal Inspector regardless of the method you are using to send them and how you are receiving them. 

    Please file a report with the shipping firm (FedEx, Airborne, etc.) and ask for the Fraud Department.  In some instances, the packages will not have been picked up on the other end and can be returned.

    This is to get the scam on record.  Without records, there is no way for enforcement to keep track of these scams, and no way to budget funds to fight them.

    File a report with your local law enforcement.  It's best to make them aware of the scam, and that it's happening in their community.

  2. Please contact each company that is shipping packages to you and explain what is going on.

  3. Turn back all deliveries.  We have heard of instances where entire truckloads of electronics have been delivered to someone like you, and the truck drivers are not very happy when told to take everything back.  It's hard on a trucker to do that when he is expecting to have an empty container to fill with another delivery for the return trip.  Be understanding, don't return his anger, explain what is going on.  Remember, now he's a victim of the scam as well.

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• If you have not received any packages yet, please read #3 above.

• If you have not yet received any checks or money orders, please cease all correspondence with the scammers.  Do not open or answers their emails.  If you have caller ID, do not answer their calls.  If you don't, hang up as soon as you realize who is calling you.  If they persist, blow a whistle into the telephone.  If you are being threatened, please go here: http://www.fraudaid.com/threats.htm

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• If you have received any checks or money orders and still have them in hand

  1. Here is a list of the types of counterfeit drafts you may receive:

    Postal Money Orders Personal checks
    International Money Orders Company checks
    Walmart Money Orders US Treasury Checks
    Corporate checks City government Checks
    County government checks Province government checks
    State government checks QChex (or similar system)
    ACH checks Cashier's checks
    Payment Processing Center checks Bank checks (drawn on the bank's corp. acct.)
    Township government checks Traveler's checks

    Any type of draft other than one sent to you directly from a lottery company is counterfeit/stolen/forged.

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  2. If you are a US resident, any letters or packages you receive, by whatever method, foreign or domestic, fall under the jurisdiction of the US Postal Service. 

    1. Print VOID across the face of each draft. (see 4. below)

    2. Place the drafts and any enclosures back in the envelope.

    3. On the back of the envelope (outer envelope if double) print [NAME OF SCAM], COUNTERFEIT DRAFT, ATTN: US POSTAL INSPECTOR.

       

      Free Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0 download.

    4. Drop the envelope off at any Post Office, back side up so they can see what you are handing them.

    5. If you wish to file an enforcement report to go with the above, please click HERE for the Adobe Acrobat PDF USPS Mail Fraud form.  Click on the printer icon in the toolbar to print the form.

    If you are not in the US, please contact your postal service to see if they have a Mail Fraud division. 

    If not, and if you cannot drop the voided drafts and envelope(s) off with your local police, then please completely destroy the drafts and envelopes.

  3. Stop all contact with the criminals immediately.  Do not call them, do not answer their calls.  If they keep calling you, blow a whistle in to the phone.  They do not care about anything you have to say.  If you are not sending them money, they have no interest in you at all.

  4. If you have a scanner, before writing VOID across the face of the drafts you can scan and send them, along with the initial email and the email containing instructions for the draft, or the lottery winning notice if received by surface post, to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at alert@fdic.gov

 

• If you have deposited checks or money orders, or have had funds wired into your bank account or credit card account, but have not sent off the money:

You are going to be alright!  You are not going to be arrested,

no one is coming after you for anything.

Your Identity Theft Prevention To Do List

This section covers all 3 of the situations listed in the title: deposited by you, wired to your bank account, wired to your credit card account, plus what to do if checks or money orders were deposited to your bank account by a 3rd party.

  1. Drafts you deposited into your checking or savings account:

    1. Contact your bank branch immediately and ask for the Operations Officer.  If that officer is not available, ask for the Manager.  Explain that the checks or money orders you deposited are part of an international counterfeit check scam [Payment Processing Scam, Lottery Scam, Overpayment Scam, Relationship Scam, Charity Scam, etc.] and that they will be returned.

    2. Ask for a goodwill letter stating that you warned the bank ahead of time.  You may also be able to negotiate with your bank such that you are not debited the chargeback fee.

    3. If you have automatic deposits or automatic debits, contact all parties and change to paper checks for now.

    4. Give written instructions that the account is to be closed and zeroed out.  You want to make very, very sure that it does not have some small amount of money keeping it open.  Sometimes monthly bank fees will hit just before and account is closed, and it will reflect a debit balance.  This will keep the account open and active.

    5. When you open your new account, use a different name.  Example: If your current account reads John Marion Doe with address and phone, open the new account to read J. Doe with no address and phone.  There is no point in advertising your personal information, plus Identity Thieves will not be able to tell how you sign your name.

      IMPORTANT NOTE: It has happened on more that one occasion that one of the criminals has deposited checks or money orders to a victim's account.  The criminal used a different branch - not the branch where the victim's account was located.  If this is what happened to you, please see "2. Funds wired into your checking or savings account" below for your instructions

  2. Funds wired to your checking or savings account

    1. Contact your bank branch immediately and ask for the Operations Officer.  If that officer is not available, ask for the Manager. 

      Explain that the money is part of an international fraud scheme [usually Payment Processing, but there have been others] and request that the money be removed from your account and returned to the rightful owner immediately.

      IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on the route the money traveled to reach your account, it may be impossible for your bank to find the rightful owner.  If that is the case, it is the bank's problem, not yours.  They can place the funds in a suspense account or other account belonging to the bank.  Just make certain that those funds are no longer under your name in any manner.

    2. Give written instructions that the account be closed and zeroed-out.  It is extremely important that the account be closed completely, without a small amount (debit or credit) keeping it open and active.

      IMPORTANT NOTE: As long as the scammers have access to an active account, they can use it to launder money.  They can send money through the account using your name and fake authorization to do so. 

      Those funds will be sent to another Payment Processing Scam victim who will be instructed to send them by Western Union or MoneyGram to the so-called employer.  They have been known to do this with Canadian bank accounts.

      Money laundering criminals will use as many layers as possible to distance themselves from the source of the stolen money.

    3. When you open your new account, give written instructions that the account is not to accept any 3rd party deposits of any kind, wired or draft, without your express, written, and specific consent. 

      When you personally fill out a deposit slip and identify yourself as the account holder, that is an express, written, specific consent to deposit what you are presenting to your account. 

      When you fill out the form authorizing your paycheck or other income to be auto-deposited into your account, that is express, written, specific authorization.

    4. This will prevent unauthorized 3rd party deposits to your account regardless of the source or method, and should an unauthorized deposit sneak through the system, it will not be your responsibility.

  3. Funds wired into your credit card account

    1. Call your credit card distributor, explain the situation, and ask that those funds be immediately returned to the rightful owner.

    2. Give written instructions that the account be closed completely.  DO NOT CONFUSE THIS WITH GETTING A NEW CARD NUMBER.

    3. A new credit card number does not close your account.  It will remain open forever unless you direct that it be closed.

    4. Write a letter to your credit card distributor, Registered Mail, Return Receipt Requested, ordering the account to be closed, stating that you will not be responsible for any charges to the old account after ________(date), and state the reason.

      NOTE: It is best to completely remove yourself from that particular credit card distributor because it is very common for charges made to the old account, even dated after the old account has been closed, to be automatically charged to the new account.  STAYING WITH YOUR CURRENT CREDIT CARD DISTRIBUTOR IS NOT SAFE.  You could find yourself owing thousands of dollars in charges you never made or authorized.

• If you have cashed checks or money orders and still have the money:

  1. File a police report and get a copy for the bank or store.  You always want to make a record of your knowledge that a crime was committed.

  2. Contact the place where you cashed the checks or money orders.  Explain that you have discovered that the checks or money orders were part of a Payment Processing Scam, that you've filed a police report and that you still have the money.

  3. If you cashed the drafts at a bank, returning the money should be fairly easy but please do so in the presence of a reliable and trusted witness who is not an employee of the bank.

  4. If you cashed the drafts at a store, simply returning the money may or may not be a good idea. 

    For instance, if you live in a small town where everyone knows each other, then it may be possible to safely return the money.  Be sure to do so in the presence of a reliable witness such as your minister, rabbi, priest, or imam.

  5. If you live in the city or are considered an outsider where you live and you do not know the people at the store, you cannot necessarily predict their behavior.  They may just decide to file a police report against you even if you do return the money.  Remember, the crime was passing the counterfeit/stolen/forged drafts to begin with.  It may be up to a court of law to decide if you cashed the drafts with the intent to steal.

    If this is your situation, it's best to take the money down to a bank and open what's called a JOHN DOE escrow account (in the U.S.).  In the U.S. "John Doe" is the name given to any unknown person.  This type of escrow account may be called something else where you live.

    Deposit the money into the JOHN DOE escrow account.  This places a third party between you and the store and clearly demonstrates that you had no intent to defraud.  You can speak with your banker about what the store must do to claim the money.

    Any bank in the world will open an escrow account for you.  If you feel more comfortable doing so, you can hire an attorney to do this on your behalf.

  6. If you have spent a portion of the cash and will have trouble paying it back, please go HERE to fill out a contact form so that we can speak with your personally and walk you through solutions to your situation.

 

• If you have deposited or cashed checks or money orders and sent off the money:

> Dealing with the bank

> Dealing with the check cashing store

 

If you have been arrested please go HERE immediately.

  • No matter what, you will owe the bank or the store for the full amount of the drafts.  That is the law.

  • If your bank or the store has not yet contacted you, please call them immediately and warn them that the checks or money orders are counterfeit/forged/stolen and are part of a Payment Processing (or other counterfeit check) Scam.  Make a note of who you talked to and their title, and the time of your call.  Ask for a letter confirming that you warned them.

BANKS: It is possible that because of your good will, you might be able to talk your bank out of charging you the return fee.  If not, be prepared to pay anywhere between $45 and $75 per draft.  Chargeback fees differ from country to country and bank to bank.

1.     Please file a police report immediately.  If your local law enforcement will not take a Fraud Report, ask to file a General Report.  You will need a copy for your bank.

2.     Contact Western Union or Traveler's (MoneyGram) and ask for a tracking report of the money you sent off to the scammers.  You may need a copy to add to your police report, and you may need a copy for your bank or the store.  This is not an essential step, but is still a wise one.  For PayPal transfers, ask for a trace report.

3.     Prepare your budget, all money in, all money out.  Be sure to include your quarterly and annual expenses, such as auto insurance, taxes, clothing allowance, money you put aside for emergencies, automatic savings withdrawals, school expenses, etc.  Do this even if you have no money left over or are in the red. 

Your budget is a negotiating tool, nothing more.  This is not a pass or fail test, it's merely a statement of fact.  Please understand that everything you note as an expense must be verifiable by your bank or other creditor, so don't lie or try to add in expenses that cannot be proved by your cash flow statement or bank statement.

4.     With your police report and budget in hand, contact your bank using the main phone number.  Explain to the representative that you need to speak with the department that manages overdraft repayments.  If you are working with a small bank or local credit union, then speak with the Manager where you do your banking. 

NOTE: Keep a log of each person's name, title, phone number and extension, date, time, and what was said.  Do this for the entire time you are working with your bank to repay the debt, regardless of who you talk to.  So long as it has to do with the repayment or the scam, keep a record of your contact in your contact log.

5.     Once you have reached the proper contact, explain that you are the victim of a [Lottery, Payment Processing, Overpayment, Nigerian, Eastern European, Asian] counterfeit check scam and that you are determined to reach a repayment plan that is mutually beneficial.  Be sincere, be forthright, and be very adamant.  Most banks are open to negotiation.  The more aggressive you are about reaching agreeable terms, the fewer problems you will have.

Please understand that in most countries the bank will not insist that you make payments that will put you out of house and home, nor take food off your table, nor make it difficult for you to reach your place of employment.

6.     Alternate tactic: We have found that if you merely begin making payments of at least $75.00 to $100.00 per month the bank will not insist on a payment arrangement.  Here are the Rules: 1. Never be late; 2. If you cannot make the payment due to a financial emergency, write a letter of explanation (enclose a copy of the bill if you have it) and state that you will be back on schedule the following month; 3. If you can afford a double payment, include a letter explaining that this was a windfall payment and that you have not changed the monthly amount; 4. If you can afford to increase your payment amount, include a letter explaining that you can now afford to pay the increased amount of $______.

By doing this, you are the one who maintains control over what you can afford to remit, not the bank.  The bottom line is that many banks don’t care about you so long as you are repaying the debt on a dependable basis.  You quickly move to the back burner.

7.     If your circumstances do not fit the above solution or if you have difficulties negotiating with your bank, please go HERE to fill out a contact form so that we can speak with your personally and walk you through solutions to your situation.    

DO NOT IGNORE THE SITUATION.  We can guarantee you that if you decide this is the bank or the store's problem, not yours and you refuse to answer their calls and correspondence, you will either be taken to civil court or arrested or both!

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STORES:

Working with check cashing stores can be difficult.  Most run on a fairly tight budget and they are targets for those who pass bad checks on purpose.  Many contact law enforcement immediately - while you are still in the store.

If you do not come to an agreement with the store as quickly as possible, they will file a police report and the chances are that you will be arrested.  If you are currently at risk of being arrested, go HERE.

Some check cashing stores are open to a repayment plan, but generally they want all of their money returned immediately.

We do not generally advise that you go back to the check cashing store.  It is wiser to conduct your business by telephone, fax, and Registered Mail until your situation is over.

  1. If you can borrow the money from friends or family to repay the store, then do so immediately.  Please be certain to obtain a Promissory Note form from a stationery store or bank so that the loan agreement between you and your friend or family member is formal as you may need this for your income taxes. (Please continue reading)

  2. File a police report and get a copy for the store.  You always want to make a record of your knowledge that a crime was committed.

  3. Contact Western Union or Traveler's (MoneyGram) and ask for a tracking report of the money you sent off to the scammers.  You will need a copy to add to your police report, and you may need a copy for your bank or the store.

  4. Prepare your budget, all money in, all money out.  Be sure to include your quarterly and annual expenses, such as auto insurance, taxes, clothing allowance, money you put aside for emergencies, automatic savings withdrawals, school expenses, etc.  Do this even if you have no money left over or are in the red. 

    Your budget is a negotiating tool, nothing more.  This is not a pass or fail test, it's merely a statement of fact.  Please understand that everything you note as an expense must be verifiable by your bank or other creditor, so don't lie or try to add in expenses that cannot be proved by your cash flow statement or bank statement.

  5. Call the check cashing store.  Explain that you are the victim of a [Lottery, Payment Processing, Overpayment, Nigerian] counterfeit check scam and that you are determined to reach a repayment plan that is mutually beneficial.  Be sincere, be forthright, be very adamant.  The more aggressive you are about reaching agreeable terms, the better your chance of success.

    NOTE: Keep a log of each person's name, title, phone number and extension, date, time, and what was said.  Do this for the entire time you are working with your bank to repay the debt, regardless of who you talk to.  So long as it has to do with the repayment or the scam, keep a record of your contact in your contact log.

  6. If you are able to negotiate a reasonable repayment plan with the check cashing store, then you're going to be fine.  If you cannot, then at this point we suggest you seek counsel.

  7. Seeking counsel: Carefully read everything below.

    You are looking for an attorney who will intervene on your behalf to negotiate a reasonable repayment plan.  If the check cashing store remains adamant, then it may be necessary to ask your attorney about taking the issue to small claims court to ask for a court appointed mediator to settle the issue.  Attorneys do not represent clients in small claims court, but your attorney can certainly advise you about the proceedings.

    A court appointed mediator has the power of the court behind his ruling.  The mediator takes a look at both sides of the issue, reviews your budget (all items must be verifiable, so be sure to have all your back-up paperwork), and makes a determination of what you can afford to pay.  The ruling is final and both sides must accept and abide by the ruling.

    You can find out about small claims court, the fees, the procedure, and court appointed mediators by contacting your local court house. 

    If the amount you owe is over the limit for your district small claims court, ask your attorney about alternative methods.  You may also be able to obtain advice from a paralegal.  Paralegals are usually listed in the phone book, even rural areas.  If you cannot find one, you can telephone around to local attorney's offices and your local court house may even have a listing.

    Please understand that asking an attorney for advice does not mean you must come up with a retainer.  An office visit, called a consult or consultation, usually runs between $40. and $125.  You can pay an attorney to write a letter, make a phone call, review a contract, or whatever individual item is needed without incurring ongoing expenses.

    Remember that the check cashing store may call the police no matter what you do.  If you discover that the police have been contacted, call your attorney immediately.  Even though the attorney you are working with is not a Criminal Defense Attorney, he will be able to contact law enforcement on your behalf.

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• If you receive calls from people you never heard of who want to know when their product is going to be delivered, this means that the scammers have involved you in a much wider scam that includes eBay or other auction houses, and maybe even classified ads.

This means that they have listed ads for the sale of non-existent product, and the buyer has been instructed to send you the money.  This serves the purpose of putting you in the middle so that no money is sent directly to them.  This is particularly useful if the buyer will only pay by check or money order.

  1. When you speak with a buyer, have your copy of your police report at hand.

  2. Explain that you are both victims of a Romanian-Nigerian style money laundering scam.  If the buyer has not heard of the scam, please refer him or her to the Payment Processing Scam section of our web.  Here is the path: www.fraudaid.com home page > Directory > scroll down to the bottom of the Directory.

  3. Give the buyer your police report number and the phone number and address of the office where you filed it.  Tell the buyer victim that he or she should also file a police report with local law enforcement and refer to your report in their report.

  4. If you did not send off the money to the scammers but instead returned it to the place where you cashed the draft(s), or if the funds are sitting in a John Doe escrow account, refer the buyer to the appropriate individual.

  5. If the buyer does not believe you or continues to give you a hard time after the initial anger has worn off, please contact us.  You can also give the buyer our contact information.

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• If the bank or store is threatening you

The first thing to remember that you are not the only victim.  There are actually 3, and sometimes 4 victims: you, the bank or store, the person from whom the money was stolen or on whom the draft was written (stolen checks, compromised bank account, Identity Theft) and in some instances, a person whose bank account is being used to launder money unbeknownst to them.

Unfortunately, you are caught in the middle of all this; you are the only one who physically performed the money laundering transaction.  Even though you were unaware that you were participating in criminal activity, you were doing just that.

This gives the banks and stores a lot of leverage. 

Although most well-educated U.S. bank officers understand the situation and open repayment negotiations right away, some bank officers head straight for your throat and threaten without mercy.  Even so, you can ask for the person's supervisor or report the person to the bank's legal department and Human Resources department.  Be sure to follow that path before seeking other avenues.

Unless the bank has grossly neglected proper internal banking procedure or bank law in the handling of your transaction, you haven't a leg to stand on.  It is very rare that a bank does not follow procedure in processing your transaction, but it does happen. 

Please keep reading.

It is not the bank's responsibility to contact the account holder to see if the draft you are presenting was made out to you for the stated amount.  That is your responsibility.  The bank's only responsibility is to properly and responsibly manage and protect those funds that have been placed in its safekeeping, not to protect and "safekeep" you.

A bank can give you immediate credit on any draft it chooses; generally this is based on the bank's evaluation of you as a creditworthy customer in good standing.

A bank can place a hold on a check for as many days as it chooses and again, the number of days is generally based on the bank's evaluation of you as a creditworthy customer in good standing.  Once the hold is released, your bank credits your account with its own funds, not those of the bank on which the draft was drawn.  On good checks, the bank receives its credit from the drawee bank a few days later.

NOTE: If you have a consistently low balance in your checking account and have had funds made available to you by your bank in an amount inconsistent with your normal checking account balance, please go HERE

An example would be: You normally have a balance of $400 or less in your checking account and your bank makes funds available* to you in an amount of say, $30,000. 

* "Funds available" and "funds pending" on your bank statement mean that your bank has not been paid for the checks or money orders you deposited, and therefore you are 100% liable for the full amount of those checks or money orders.

Please note that as the holder of a personal bank account or small business account, if you receive a draft from a foreign country it must be sent for collection.  Under normal circumstances, this means that your bank waits to receive funds from the foreign bank, i.e. waits to be paid, before giving you credit.

Store owners, particularly check cashing store owners, are more vulnerable than banks and work on a lower profit margin.  Those bounced checks may be hitting the store at a moment when cash is very low or at a time when cash reserves have already been used up by emergencies or other necessities.  Those bounced checks may mean the owner cannot make payroll for an employee.

Most check cashing stores are the target of thieves and therefore have a policy of immediately calling the police to have perpetrators arrested.  If the owner of the check cashing store in your instance has not already called the police, then he or she will still use the possibility as a threat to push you into a speedy repayment.  It often only requires the intervention of an attorney, hired by you for the purpose, to smooth things over and and achieve a reasonable repayment plan. 

Please continue reading.

Some individuals do go too far with the collection process, and in those instances you can fight back.  DO NOT JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS.  Except in extreme circumstances, this does not mean you get out of paying back the money.

There are two, and only two areas of misconduct in a collection process that allow you to fight back, and you must have witnesses and/or tapes to prove the misconduct.  In some cases it may suffice to prove a pattern of behavior on the part of the collector which can only be accomplished if other debtors can be located to testify and/or if the collector's co-workers will testify:

  1. Violation of the US Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.htm

    This Act governs how debt collectors may and may not behave.  It was enacted to eliminate abusive debt collection practices.

  2. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/Courses/tortsF01/IIEM.htm

    There are 4 elements to the intentional infliction of emotional distress in the case of a collector's misconduct:

    1. the collector must act intentionally or recklessly;

    2. the collector's conduct must be extreme and outrageous; and

    3. the conduct must be the cause of severe emotional distress.

If you feel you are the victim of either of the above from the bank or store, please contact us.

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• Getting the money back

If you just sent the money off a few hours ago, in some instances within 48 hours, you may be able to prevent the money from being picked up or, in the case of a bank-to-bank wire, your bank may be able to reverse the transfer. 

It is always a good idea to see if the money has been picked up no matter how much time has gone by.

In all other situations, no matter how badly you want to get back the money you wired to the criminals it's completely gone with no trail to follow.

If you sent the money by Western Union or MoneyGram, the trail ended the moment the money was picked up on the other end. 

The money may have been picked up at an address completely different from the one you sent it to.  The criminals often use false identification to pick up the money.

In bank-to-bank transfers, the money is usually immediately withdrawn from the account and many times the account is closed as well.  Even when that is not the case, foreign banks may prove to be uncooperative with your bank's return request.

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• Catching the criminals

The very first thing to understand about your interaction with a scam network is that nothing you have been told is true.  The names, phone numbers, titles, addresses, documents, and stories are all lies.  The scammer is seldom even in the same country as he claims, and frequently you believe you are corresponding with only one scammer when you are corresponding with 3 or 4.  Sadly, the reverse is true as well.

 

It is not the surface information that leads anyone to the criminals.  It is a painstakingly gathered body of evidence and hours of following leads that provide information about criminals.  The chances of arresting your specific scammer are very slim; however, that is not true of all scammers in an organized crime network to which your scammer belongs (unlike the Mafia system, depending on his level of expertise and business abilities plus associations and influences, a scammer may belong to multiple organized networks).

 

Yes, scammers do get caught by law enforcement and if your scammer contacted you by email you have one of the best leads available for tracking down the criminals in his network.

 

To be effective, a Scam Email Report must include the Full Header, which is the path the email followed across the Internet from your scammer's computer to your computer.

 

Emails travel from server to server across cyberspace, and each time a server forwards an email to the next server it's called a 'hop'.  Each hop is stamped, just like the post marks on the mail you get from the Post Office.  Think of a letter that travels from Post Office to Post Office from South Africa to Seattle, with each Post Office placing its postmark on the envelope and you have what we read when we look at the Full Header.  But even better than that, the first stamp can sometimes lead us to a specific address and a specific computer.

 

Scammers have learned to play a lot of electronic games with email headers to cloak their location, so volume is important - the more emails we have in our analysis system the better.  Please go here to learn how easy it is to file Scam Email Reports: www.fraudaid.com/find_headers.  The steps for many email services are accompanied by screen shots.

 

Recruitment to join the scam group: In some instances, scammers have been known to make attempts at recruiting those they cannot turn into victims or those they have engaged in a long-standing relationship such as a romance scam.  Should you receive emails with offers of enlisting you into the fraud ring, please contact our Law Enforcement Support Unit using .

 

Solid information about scammers: This is a short list of what we look for:


Bank account numbers listed in the body of a scam email.

US, UK, and Canadian-based land lines.  Go here to make the determination: www.fonefinder.net.


Web site addresses listed in the body of a scam email.

A situation in which you personally met with the scammer within the 12 months prior to contacting us. 

 

WARNING!  If you have been targeted by a Nigerian or Eastern European scam, DO NOT seek out or try to arrange a face to face meeting with the scammer to provide information to law enforcement!    Scammers are well-trained criminals and will very quickly realize you are a fake.

 

This is dangerous to you because they are unpredictable criminals who can turn violent in heartbeat.  On top of that, without a visceral understanding of the rules of evidence you will not know what to do correctly.


Baiting criminals can be a dangerous plan so please do not play games with your scammer.  Each time you correspond with him and others in his network you risk opening your hard drive to zero hour malware or a root kit. 

 

Zero hour malware is a piece of malicious code that has not yet been identified by your anti-virus or anti-spy ware program developers, meaning you do not have an update to cover it and your hard drive is not protected from it.

 

A root kit, often embedded in emails and activated by you opening the email, downloads directly through your firewall and security software onto your hard drive where it can wreak havoc with your information and files.

 

These criminals are very nasty and far, far more experienced than you at conning people.  It's what they do all day, every day.  They will rapidly recognize your attempts at gaining information, will cease all correspondence, and may target you with malware.

If your questions have been fully answered by reading this page, please contact us.

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