The fake cashier’s check scam has been around for a long time (well before the Internet) and it continues to ensnare new victims every day. The scammers send one or more checks or money orders to the victim, ask them to cash them, keep some of the money, then wire the rest to someone. The latest twist is that instead of wiring the money, victims are asked to buy pre-paid MoneyPak cards and send the PINs to the scammer. That is just a minor variation on a long-running scam.
This is not just a “mystery shopper scam.” Yes, the mystery shopper scam works this way, but this scam has been run on eBay, CraigsList, and in other marketplaces, as well as in direct dealings with victims, such as this law firm.
The scammers have taken many millions from their victims. So what is being done about it? The unfortunate reality is that not much is done to pursue these scammers. Many of them operate across international borders. They are hard to trace because they use burner cell phones and free email addresses. And each scam typically takes just a few thousand dollars from the victim. Although a few thousand dollars may seem like a lot of money to us, it is a relatively small amount to law enforcement. As a result, it can be difficult to find someone who is truly interested in investigating.
You might think that it would be easy for law enforcement to just go pick them up when they go to collect the money that was wired. However, the money can be picked up at any number of locations, and they sometimes even have the cooperation of one or more employees at the wire transfer service.
Something that can help get the attention of law enforcement is the sheer volume of these scams. If you want to report a scam or attempted scam, here are a few places that want to hear from you. Your one report may not make a difference, but taken with hundreds or thousands of others, it may help to identify a pattern that will help them nab the bad guys.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
- File a complaint with the National Consumers Union
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
- Contact your state’s Attorney General
- If the scam involved mail sent through the USPS, file a report with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.