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  YOU ARE LIABLE FOR COUNTERFEIT CHECKS DEPOSITED INTO YOUR ACCOUNT

      Is someone you met on the Internet sending you a cashier's check or business check to pay for something you have sold them?  BEWARE!!!!!!!!  You will be liable if you withdraw money from your account that is backed by this check and it turns out to be counterfeit - regardless of whether or not you, too, are a victim.  Some victims have even been charged criminally when the check turned out to be counterfeit as the police and prosecutor claimed they knew what they were doing when they did it - even though they had proof of e-mails, phone calls and documented lies from the thief.  AND to add insult to injury, the real thief was never charged or even investigated because of the difficulty of going across state, and sometimes, national boundaries.
     
     If you received a counterfeit check from Nigeria or another foreign country, your situation will be different from a victim who received a check from a person living in the U.S. 
For information on this situation, go to CUFF's Nigerian Scams Page.
     
     Consumer education about check fraud is not keeping up with the scammers:
Phony Check Scams on Rise - 1/28/2007

     How to verify a cashier's check and money order
      What is a Nigerian 419 Letter?
    
Nigerian Scam Letter Database

     Beware of Banking Check Fraud Laws-  Con artists know the laws - You better know them, too.  
    
Advice from PayPal: 10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraudulent E-Mails
    
Advice from an Financial Writer on How to Avoid Online Fraud
    
Department of Justice - Internet Fraud Information

  HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM AN UNKNOWN CHECK WRITER  

      Ask your bank how long they need to hold the check before they can guarantee that it is good, then triple that time.  If you call the originating bank to confirm funds in the account, you may be told there is sufficient money in the account.  BUT DO NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION ALONE.  If the check is counterfeit because it has been forged or written on a computer generated check that duplicates the account information, it will eventually be returned to your account as a forgery.  If it does come back, you should immediately file a complaint with law enforcement. And don't count on anyone, including the USPS, to tell you a money order is good as it may have been washed and is not yet registered as fraudulent.

   
How to verify a cashier's check and money order

   FILE A COMPLAINT WITH LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT

      Jurisdictions vary as to reporting protocol.  First, report the fraud to your local police.  If they direct you to the jurisdiction where the thief reportedly lives, then report the crime to that jurisdiction. If you are not sure where the thief lives and you want to research it in order to provide law enforcement with the information, CUFF will research it for you: Identifying the Thief   The U.S. Secret Service investigates counterfeit check fraud, so you should also report the crime to this agency.  If the check came by mail or wire, you should report it to the Postal Inspection Service.  However, the federal minimum threshold for fraud investigation is reportedly now at the six-figure level.  So, there is a possibility that your case will not even be investigated.  

     Even if this is the case, you should still report your crime to all the appropriate agencies because it will put the thief in the system. Eventually, if enough victims file charges against the same person or company, the chances are much greater that an investigation will be initiated.  And it also increases the crime statistics for fraud, which is necessary to attract the attention of the legislators who fund law enforcement agencies.
      


   WHERE TO REPORT INTERSTATE FRAUD AND MAIL FRAUD

     *U.S. Postal Inspection Service - File a mail fraud complaint -   If the check was sent through the mail, file a
       complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
     *Looks Too Good To Be True.com  - U.S. Federal Government Site Listing Federal Fraud Reporting Agencies
     *Consumer Sentinel -  Fraud Reporting Agency Sponsored by National and International Law Enforcement Agencies
     *U.S. Secret Service - The Secret Service handles bank fraud issues such as counterfeit check fraud.
     *CANADIAN VICTIMS - Report fraud in Canada to Phonebusters.com
     *Reporting Economic Crime Online - Canada
     *UNITED KINGDOM VICTIMS - Report fraud to Scotland Yard   
     *NIGERIAN SCAMS - Nigerian scam solicitations that come by e-mail should be forwarded to the FTC at uce@ftc.gov
       Many of these scams will send a counterfeit check to the victim to pay for whatever items are being purchased. 
       

       WARNING:
If you are the victim of financial fraud originating in Nigeria or outside the U.S., you will want to view the
       CUFF page on Nigerian Scams.
     *Address, Phone Number and Web Site Form for Contacting Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
     *LOCAL POLICE - Take the check to your local law enforcement jurisdiction and file a police report.
     *DATING SITES, AUCTION SITES, MESSAGE BOARDS     
     
If you met the scammer on a dating site, auction site or on a message board, contact the Web master or customer
       service department and provide the e-mails you received, if requested, to verify the scammer's e-mail address,
       screen name, IP address, phone number, etc. 
DOCUMENTS YOU SHOULD PROVIDE IN THE POLICE REPORT

     Keep all documents you received from and sent to the thief, including photocopies of the front and back of the counterfeit check, all e-mails from the thief, including headers, all letters, wired documents, etc.  If the thief gave you a cell phone number or land line number, provide that information to law enforcement along with all the other documents.  If you are not sure how to read the e-mails or need additional assistance, contact fraudaid.com.

   
Step-by-step instructions on how to write an effective fraud report.

IDENTIFYING THE THIEF 

     If you need assistance in identifying and locating the person who sent you a fraudulent check, CUFF will provide the research for $59.00. Complete the Fraud Report order form It is possible that the person who defrauded you has also defrauded others in a similar scam.  By providing law enforcement with the fraudster's identity and location, it will simplify the case for law enforcement and encourage them to act quicker than they might otherwise.  You should be aware, however, that if you were defrauded by someone living outside the U.S., the chances are very slim that federal law enforcement agencies will investigate unless the losses meet the minimum financial threshold. 

    Because drug-related and violent crime are consuming most of law enforcement's resources, fraud is being pushed to the back of the line.  If that's where they put your case, don't give up.  You should still file a police report and report the crime to the federal agencies noted above, even if your case is not investigated.  Fraud is the most under-reported of all crimes because the victims feel embarrassment for their "willing" participation.  This is one of the reasons that it is not investigated with the kind of vigor that would eventually make a difference.  You should report your crime even if it is only added to the crime statistics.  Eventually, legislators and law enforcement will recognize that it  has reached an epidemic level and will begin to take it seriously. 

    When CUFF researches your case, if we uncover an outstanding warrant for the person, we will publish the information for free in the CUFF Fugitive Database so others can help with the search.  If you already know that the person has an outstanding warrant or criminal history, you can Submit the person to the CUFF Fugitive Database for free. This database is not searchable on the Internet until CUFF verifies the warrant and your personal information will not be given to anyone unless you authorize it.  When it is published, anyone can search the database for free using 48 different search criteria, including the subject's physical description, aliases, background information and keywords.

  
  If our research uncovers a criminal history or recorded civil judgments, we will publish this information in the CUFF Fugitive Database also.

     You can also submit the person to the Internet Swindlers Database, which is a proprietary database that is not searchable on the Internet but is used by CUFF to match names and MO's of swindlers in order to provide information to law enforcement.  CUFF matches each submission with con artists already in the database to see if the person has been entered already.  If so, we will send you the e-mail address of the other victim(s) and allow you to discuss your frauds, if you choose.  If information is produced which substantiates a pattern of fraud, CUFF will provide a free background search on the con artist and begin an investigation to determine whether or not there might be evidence to convince law enforcement to charge the person with fraud. 

    
  If you don't believe the criminal justice system is equipped to handle the growing epidemic of fraud, join CUFF, America's fastest growing grassroots anti-fraud movement that is working to change the laws and social attitude which have contributed to the laxity in prosecution.  
   

BEING CHARGED CRIMINALLY AS THE VICTIM

     If you are charged criminally after depositing an unknown counterfeit check into your checking account, you are not alone.  More and more victims across the U.S. are being charged criminally for their gullibility in receiving checks sent by strangers they met on the Internet.  If this happens to you, you will need an attorney who understands the full operation behind a Nigerian Scam.  Do not think the charges will be dropped if you just explain yourself to the judge.  Do not think you are not being viewed as a criminal by the police, the D.A. and even your attorney if the person is not familiar with this kind of scam.  You must take this seriously, get an attorney and contact fraudaid.com for guidance on the steps to follow to justice.

 
BANK WARNING:  Ask your bank to place a warning about counterfeit checks at all tellers' windows to protect uninformed customers and to protect the bank from losses that are resulting from the victims' inability to repay the lost funds.

1st Bank recently published a brochure on Counterfeit Check Fraud that is available in its branches.  
View a jpg of the brochure, print it and take it to your bank manager

Western Union announced in November 2005 that it will begin to post prominent warnings to its customers about the use of wire transfers in telemarketing fraud.

Here is what Western Union's official warning looks like in the United Kingdom.  You don't send money without signing this release.

GETTING YOUR MONEY BACK

    When you lose money through an Internet scam, the chances of getting your money back are akin to getting your television back after an unknown burglar steals it from your home while you are away on vacation.  It happens only in the rarest of circumstances and what happened to this victim is typical: Good Samaritan Loses $18,000 in Nigerian Scam.  However, you do have some options if the criminal lives in the U.S.

    First, you can pursue criminal charges through the proper agency, and if this happens and the thief is convicted, you can ask for restitution as part of the sentencing.  Depending on the state and county, the thief may remain on probation until the money is repaid.

     Second, you can sue the person in court in order to obtain a civil judgment.  This judgment will allow you to have the thief's personal property seized, his bank account levied and his paycheck garnisheed.  This is a very good option if the thief is employed and has assets.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people who scam do not have stable employment or assets.

    Third, if you do not know the true identity of the subject, you can try to sue the person using a John Doe for the defendant's name.  You would need to provide all the e-mails, letters, wire transfers, etc. that show you do not know who the person really is but that you have a clear basis for your civil claims.  Your purpose is not to file for a judgment initially but to obtain a subpoena for the ISP and e-mail providers of the unknown fraudster in order to obtain the person's name and address.  It is also possible to subpoena eBay and PayPal for information they have on the person's true identity if the fraudster used their services in the fraudulent transaction. This is the legal process used to obtain the identities of the unknown defendants in the music download trials and by large corporations such as Microsoft to sue Web site owners for spam.    

     If you obtain a judgment against someone, you can hand it over to a judgment recovery specialist, which is a collector who goes after judgment debtors.  This person will have a financial motivation to find your money, and the fee you pay, which is generally 30% to 50% of the money collected, may be worth it.  50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.  AND you will have obtained justice because the thief will have had to give back the stolen money.

     An additional disadvantage of suing civilly is that a judgment is only valid in the county and/or state where it was issued.  In order for it to be recognized in another county and/or state, it must be filed as a foreign judgment.  Often this means the case must be heard by a judge in the county where it is being filed as a foreign judgment.  If it was a default judgment, the chances are even better that the count will not rubber stamp it without hearing the case.  

     To see an overview of what is available to a plaintiff in a small claims court suit, go to CUFF's Get Even Legally Page.

      Review the links and information above and if you feel you still need additional help or have questions, contact CUFF in the Contact form.  Do not e-mail us as we may not open an e-mail if we do not recognize the sender.