Cheque Fraud - The Unseen Victims
Cheque fraud is a huge problem all over the world, and many reports are seen about the victims at the end of Overpayment (and other) cheque scams. What some people forget is that there are sometimes other victims in the chain of events, in fact right at the very start of it.
The unseen victims of cheque fraud are those people who, for one reason or another, have had part of their identities stolen. The theft of this identity is used as the basis for the creation of those bogus cheques that get used in Overpayment Scams.
Rarely do we see these victims mentioned, but the damage and worry that these people go through is just as hard as those on the other end of the scam. Sometimes however, the cheque scammer does not get very far, and their intended victims become internet investigators, bringing the entire scam to its knees. This report is based on just such a scenario.
Note: Names have been changed and certain details obfuscated, to protect innocent parties.
Scammer At Work
The scammer picks potential victims from a well-known website called blackcuties.com. According to the site they are a community of the cutest black models on the Internet
, and just like many other social and business networks, they are easy targets for fraudulent attacks.
: Billy Ary (email@example.com
: 126.96.36.199 (Skylogic
-- Broadband Satellite Provider. Subsidiary of EutelSat
The scammer writes the following messages to his potential victims:
April 7th, 2008:
I am sending this mail to you as regards your post i saw on (blackcuties.com).I was thrilled when i saw those Pictures of yours,I quite appreciate your looks and would like to work with you on a small contract if you care to.
April 9th, 2008:
I work with a newly open clothing store in TX Named PICK & PAY. we need models to model for the promotion sales just to help publish them and to boost there sales and help them pave there way up the clothing industry meeting up with world fashion business today.Shot will be taking and pictures will be used to advertise their products.Get back to me to know if you are interested in the Job offer and let me know your charging plan for 2 hours just for a day shoot.The shot will be done at a location closer to you.
I await to hear from you as soon as possible.
April 9th, 2008:
Thanks for your response,The shot will be held as soon as we both agree on when it should be held and the pictures will be used for the promotion sales.The Store will be responsible for the provision for your clothings,make-up and hairstyle that will be use for the shoot.
The location of the shoot, will be somewhere close to where you are located to avoid any traveling inconveniences on your part.As soon as we both agree,the photographer will get in touch with you to agree on the location, date and time of the shoots and he will be coming over to meet you up so that the shooting can be done in good time.Let me know you're ok with $200 for 2 hours of your service and fund will be sent to you immediately on confirmation of your payment information as clearly outlined below this e-mail. After payment has been received, the photo shoot will be taken and sent to the store. There will be a pre-arranged photographer,hairstylist and a make up artist that will be coming over to you for the shoots. They will be contacting you for proper arrangement of time and location after payments has been made. Guess the arrangement is understood. In order for payment to be made to you, provide me with the following details:
Name in full
Residential address in full
Phone number...(cell and home)
Statistics for Attires....
Statistics for shoes.....
Any previous Modeling Experience.....
I await to hear from you.
April 11th, 2008:
Thanks for your response once again
Your details have been enlisted among the models who will be modeling for the company's sales Promo, and funds will be release to you in days time.
I will keep you inform about the Shot schedule and payment for your service(Modeling). All this will be as soon as possible. Also to tell you, the address you gave is P O Box which is not accepted by fedex, a valid home address is required please get back to me as soon as you can. Thanks.
April 24th, 2008:
How are you doing today? I was notified today by the company financial Manager and FedEx that your payment has been mailed out to you on the following Fedex tracking number: # ************. You can have it track on WWW.FedEx.com. I want you to proceed to having the check Deposit/Withdraw in your bank as soon as you receive it and deduct $300 as part payment for your services and have the balance sent via Western Union Money Transfer to the Make-Up Artist(MUA) that will be coming over to you for the make-up,The money will be used for the cosmetics and other material that will be needed for the shoot and also to be able to get his flight booked in good time. Immediately after the shoot, you will be paid your remaining money in cash according to the number of hour you spent.
The company decided to pair you up with the Make-Up Artist cause he is very busy traveling around the states doing Make-Up for some top models as regards their portfolio and presently he is not in his residential area where he has his bank, that was why the company had to pair you up with him. I hope you understand.
Below is the information you are to send the money to.
---------Address...1625 16th #42
Moreover, You will be charged for using the Western Union Money Transfer services, so you pay WUMT services fee from the money you are sending to Him. As soon as the funds is sent ,i want you to get back/email me with the details below
---------MTCN Number(10 Digits Number)....
---------Exact Amount Sent......
---------Western Union Fee ( for record purpose)
I hope you are cleared with this message and kindly get back to me via my Private email to let me know you understand the content of the message
I await to hear back from you.
As soon as you have the money sent to him,get back to me with your statistics/sizes for your attire and don't forget to send over the funds to the Make-Up Artist(MUA) as soon as you have the funds and get back with the Western Union Money transfer details.
All the attires that you will be using for this will be provided by the company, so kindly fill the below informations to help us get the sizes of cloths and shoes you will be using for the shot.
I await to hear from you in good time.
The format of the communications is typical scammer-esque and classic Overpayment Scam
, sometimes called "Nigerian Scam". There is no legitimate reason why a cheque should be cashed to forward a balance to someone else. If a purchaser of goods/services pays in this manner, then they are 100% guaranteed
to be a fraud.
Fraudulent Cheque Exposed
The cheque arrives at the victim's home address via the quoted FedEx delivery. This victim however is no match for the scammer and suspects something not being quite right with the cheque, shown below.
Figure 1: One of the offending cheques sent out by the scammer.
The cheque is made payable to the victim, but in this case the details of the cheque are somewhat confusing. Not only was the cheque sent from Phoenix, Arizona (according to the FedEx packet), but the cheque itself is drawn on a personal joint account owned by a couple in New Mexico.
The victim takes the bold step of locating a phone number for the people named on the cheque. Not only does one potential victim smell something fishy, but a second target of the scammer has also recieved an identical cheque.
During the course of the 25th and 26th April the horrid details are revealed to the couple in New Mexico, who until now have been totally unaware of anything being wrong.
Victim #2 writes the following message to the New Mexico couple, after a phone conversation :-
The Unseen Victims
RE: Phone conversation
I received an email from "Billy Ary" with a job offer to do modeling for a new store that was opening in Texas called "Pick & Pay". We agreed on $200 for the photo shoot, but then he sent me a Fedex package with a check inside for $1650.00. He also sent me an email instructing me to cash the check, keep $300 for myself, and Western Union the rest to the make up artist for the photo shoot. I saw that the check was a personal check and that you lived in New Mexico which made me question the whole thing.
I searched for you on whitepages.com and yellowpages.com, but had no luck. I researched the Fedex package and discovered that the package was sent from Georgia. Then I searched internet explorer for your address and came up with your ******* business. I was able to pull the phone number from that website to contact you.
Here is the Fedex tracking number:
Here is the person he wanted me to send the funds to:
1625 16th #42
Lubbock, TX 79401
I will fax the check to you on Monday when I have access to a fax machine and I will mail it back to you the same day. I hope this helps.
Have a good weekend,
Armed with vital information, the couple from New Mexico (who we will call Jack and Jill) now turn to their bank and the police, to report what has happened. As a result of this, their bank account is closed to protect Jack and Jill, and the bank, from further abuse. Whilst a police report is also made it may be unlikely that they will be able to do anything to assist, but you just never know.
From the perspective of the reader, it may appear that the actions of Jack and Jill are simple and straight-forward, to the point of being clinical. However, what about the emotional damage suffered; the torture of not knowing what was happening; the uncertainty whether the problem was really finished with. Not only this, but there is additional stress with having to reprofile your bank account and
make a police report. Dealing with a bank and the police can be stressful enough, but coupled with the knowledge that they are the ultimate target of a fraud must be utterly draining, and quite frightening.
During the aftermath of the fraud attempt, Jack and Jill look for some sort of closure of this whole escapade. On May 3rd, "Jack" makes contact with anti-fraud groups looking for answers.
"How do I know if this will end?".
I received two separate phone messages from two different persons that had received checks in the amount of $1,650 each and they were to cash them, keep $300 and send the balance via western union to an address in Lubbock, Texas. The scammer used our Wells Fargo acccount and it had my wife's signature copied exactly. Luckily we called the bank had our account closed before anyone had tried cashing the checks, but both of the above individuals cooperated with us and sent us copies of the checks and one of them sent me the correspondence she had with the scammer via email. My question to you, how do I know if this will end? I have already reported to the police, but have not heard anything from them.
The one thing that threw me was how did they get my wife's exact signature. Had the information on the check not been typed, I think someone might have cashed the check, but thank God it didn't happen.
In simple terms the fraud is already exposed to both initial victims, yourselves, the bank and the police. As the bank have closed the account there is now no danger of any theft being perpetrated against you. As for others, that is an unknown quantity, and down to the due dilligence of the banks and any prospective victims out there.
Ultimately it depends on how many cheques have been manufactured, though looking at the scammer it is unlikely to be very many. Whether someone else looses money through the actions of their own bank is not something you should worry about. It is beyond your control, and you have done your bit to alert the banking establishment of the fraud, and you should be commended for that.
If you get further phone calls or contacts from potential victims, then you will know that there still cheques out in the wild, but once the scammer has used up all the cheques, it will be a done deal.
"How did they get my wife's exact signature?".
This is a little more tricky to answer as there are many ways that a signature can be stolen. For the purpose of cheque fraud, it would usually involve an original cheque.
Two possibilities spring to mind. First, an original cheque that had been issued as a payment by your wife was stolen (or went missing). This has then been scanned and used as the basis of a forgery.
The next possibility is that again, an original cheque (or cheques) have been stolen and washed
If the signature on the cheque is printed and not handwritten, then the former is a good bet.
The cheque numbers being used may give an indication as to the origins of the cheque (or cheques) in question. If the cheque number is a real one, where was that cheque issued, and to whom. Did the cheque originally get processed through your account, or did it go missing to be replaced by your wife with another? This kind of info could point the police to a potential criminal working with the West African scammer.
[Added December 29, 2008]
Another possibility is that the cheque was pre-signed, and then subsequently stolen.
I would love to coordinate a story based on my information and with hope maybe bring awareness to others who may fall victim to scams such as this. I have to commend the two ladies who cooperated with me as they knew something was up when the checks were of a personal check account and not a business account. One of the ladies actually works at a bank but it was the other lady who sent me all the information to include the check, the fedex package it came in and the correspondence with the scammer.
To echo this sentiment, the two potential victims have done a sterling job of detecting, investigating and reporting this fraud. Even though stressful, it has turned out to be a positive end to a very common scam. I would like to add my thanks to both "Jack and Jill" for the supply of data for incorporation into this news item.
It is hoped that the information contained here serves as a cathartic News story for "Jack and Jill", and serves as a warning and educational piece for readers.
Be careful out there!
References and Further Reading
- Wikipedia (Classified Ad Scams) [link]
- Wikipedia (Check Washing) [link]
- Wikipedia (Identity Theft) [link]
- United States Department of Justice (Identity Theft) [link]
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) [link]