WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION - INFO ON COUNTERFEIT MONEY DOCUMENTS AND SCAMS:
I want to take this opportunity to say hello and to welcome you to the Sheriff’s Office web site. Thank you for taking the time and having the interest to read over this, the first newsletter published by the Sheriff’s “Captain’s Corner”.
Since this is a new format and new ground for the Sheriff’s Office, I wanted to tell you a little bit about what I envision this newsletter containing in the weeks and months to come. To begin with, certain matters of public interest relating to law enforcement surface from time to time and become particular items of interest. These may include such things as how to start a community watch program in your neighborhood; how to keep from becoming the victim of a fraud or scam; what steps to take if someone owes you court-ordered restitution but refuses to pay; what the laws are governing riding an all terrain vehicle (ATV) on public roadways; or any number of other topics that are raised throughout the year.
The newsletter may also contain information and commentary on issues being debated in the State and County governmental forums that effect the Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement in general, or even the public at large. Occasionally, the Sheriff and I have strong opinions on various issues being publicly debated but often do not have a forum in which to clearly express those views in detail. This newsletter will provide such a forum for those interested in hearing those views.
To begin this first publication with, I want to comment on a matter that I’ve noticed to be quite prevalent in this area. That matter concerns persons receiving and then attempting to deposit or cash fraudulent and counterfeit money orders, traveler’s checks, and cashier’s checks. The Sheriff’s Office has taken many reports of these as has the Mountain Home City Police. The issue has become so prevalent that Prosecuting Attorney Ron Kincade recently approached the Sheriff and me recommending that we get some information out to the public about these various schemes that people are falling victim to, especially around the holidays.
People become involved in most of these fraudulent schemes after they have been contacted either by email or through mailings sent through the postal service. The majority of them seem to originate from another country, such as Nigeria, Canada, or the United Kingdom. The schemes generally follow the same format. A local citizen will receive one or more money orders or cashier’s checks for large dollar amounts. They look genuine……just like “the real thing”. The person receiving these is told that if they will cash them and return most of the money to the sender living in the other country, then they can keep a portion of the cash for all their trouble. Of course once the money orders or cashier’s checks are deposited and run through the local bank, they are found to be fraudulent or counterfeit and returned as such. They are charged back against the receiver’s account, and the receiver is then responsible for re-paying the bank or business that deposited or cashed them (if they’ve already spent any of that money, which most have). If the money documents were genuine to begin with, then the person contacting you would have been able to cash them himself. You wouldn’t be needed to help in that process.
People must realize that there are those out there who want to and will take advantage of them if given the opportunity. Don’t fall for these schemes. Unless someone owes you a legitimate debt that you are expecting payment for, or it’s your birthday or a holiday and somebody you know is sending you a gift in the form of a money order, cashier’s check, or traveler’s check, then don’t expect it to be genuine and legitimate. It’s not. It’s a scam. You should have no reason to believe that somebody you don’t know, have never heard of before, is just going to give you a large cash award! Realistically, that’s not going to happen.
Businesses and store managers should also be particularly alert to fraudulent money documents. Traveler’s checks, for example, are only very rarely issued in denominations greater than $100. If a customer presents you with a traveler’s check for, say $500, you should be very suspicious of it and obtain verification and confirmation that it is genuine before accepting it. Most of the companies that issue traveler’s checks, such as American Express or Traveler’s Express, have toll free numbers available that anyone can call to determine the authenticity of their traveler’s checks. It only takes a couple of minutes to do this. Protect yourself from fraud. Likewise, most companies that issue money orders have the same verification process available to the businesses and the public to protect them from fraud. You are encouraged to use those services. Some of the more common numbers that might be useful for verification/confirmation purposes are:
American Express – Traveler’s Checks (800) 525-7641
Visa – Traveler’s Checks (800) 227-6811
U. S. Postal Service – Money Orders (800) ASK-USPS or
(800) 372-8347 (fraud hotline)
Each of these institutions also has detailed information concerning how to identify fraudulent or counterfeit documents on their respective web sites.
If you have become a victim of one of these frauds, you are encouraged to report it to the appropriate law enforcement agency having jurisdiction. However, you should realize that if the person or organization you received the money documents from is outside of the United States (which is the vast majority of them), then there will be very little that can be done for you, criminally, on the local level. Most likely, you will have very little recourse in trying to recover what you have lost. Sad, but that’s the reality of the situation!
Until next time, I send you best regards, Captain Jeff Lewis – Baxter County Sheriff’s Office
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