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Beware! Internet scams on the rise

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Internet crime schemes that steal millions of dollars each year from victims continue to plague the Internet through various methods. 

Two of the more popular schemes recently are the "Advance Fee Fraud" or 419/Nigerian Scam, and the Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam. 

The counterfeit cashier's check scheme targets individuals who use Internet classified advertisements to sell merchandise. Typically, an interested party located outside the United States contacts a seller. The seller is told the buyer has an associate in the United States that owes him money. 

As such, he will have the associate send the seller a cashier's check for the amount owed to the buyer. The amount of the check will usually be thousands of dollars more than the price of the merchandise and the seller is told the excess amount will be used to pay the shipping costs associated with getting the merchandise to his location. 

The seller is instructed to deposit/cash the check, and as soon as it clears, to wire the excess funds back to the buyer or to another associate identified as a shipping agent. Because a cashier's check is used most often, a bank will typically release the funds immediately, or after a one- or two-day hold. 

Falsely believing the check has cleared, the seller wires the money as instructed. In some cases, the buyer is able to convince the seller some circumstance has arisen that necessitates the cancellation of the sale and is successful in conning the victim into sending the remainder of the money. Shortly thereafter, the victim's bank notifies him the check was fraudulent, and the bank is holding the victim responsible for the full amount of the check. 

Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, the 419 scam combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, e-mail or fax is received by the potential victim. The communication from individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials offer the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars, soliciting for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. 

Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials and legal fees are often described in great detail, with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are out of the country. 

The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationary, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a fax number provided in the letter. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim to send money to the author of the letter in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons. 

With all Internet scams, there is one common theme to adhere to, "If it seems too good to be true, then more than likely, it probably is." If you are involved in any internet transactions, do not become a victim of these or any scam; take the time to do some research:
Counterfeit Cashiers Check Scam
Inspect the cashiers check
Ensure the amount of the check matches in figures and words
Check to see that the account number is not shiny in appearance
Make sure the drawer's signature is not traced
Official checks are generally perforated on at least one side
Inspect the check for additions, deletions or other alterations
Contact the financial institution on which the check was drawn to ensure legitimacy
Obtain the bank's telephone number from a reliable source, not from the check itself
Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country
Nigerian Letter or "419"
Do not reply to emails asking for personal banking information
Be wary of individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials
Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country
Beware when asked to assist in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts
Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation
Guard your account information carefully
Be cautious when additional fees are requested to further the transaction 

If you believe you may have fallen victim to these types of scams and wish to report it, you can go to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov/ and file a complaint. This organization is a partnership of the National White Collar Crime Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

The United States Secret Service continues to be tasked as the primary U.S. law enforcement agency in dealing with Advance Fee Fraud (419) matters. U.S. citizens or residents with no financial loss may e-mail 419 documents to the United States Secret Service at 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov where they are archived for future data mining. Only no loss reports are to be sent to this e-mail address. 

Due to the sheer volume of materials received, the USSS does not respond to submissions to this address. 

United States citizens and residents who have suffered a financial loss are instructed to contact the nearest field office of the USSS by telephone.
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