Police warn of e-mail checking scam 12-06-04

HAWAII COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
EAST HAWAII CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION SECTION
LIEUTENANT RANDALL A. MEDEIROS
PHONE: 961-2252
DECEMBER 6, 2004

MEDIA RELEASE

Police are warning Big Island residents about another scam making the rounds, this one an e-mail scam usually originating in a foreign country such as Nigeria.

In this scam, the swindler e-mails someone who has an item for sale on the Internet. The person pulling the scam will send the seller a check, frequently a cashier’s check, for more than the amount of what they are buying — for example, sending a $2,000 check for a $1,200 computer.

The scammer then asks the seller to return the difference between the amount of the check and the sale price. By the time the check clears and turns out to be counterfeit, the seller is out $800.

Lieutenant Randall Medeiros, head of the East Hawaii Criminal Investigation Section, said some version of this scam has been reported several times on the Big Island.

This scam is frequently successful because most people place great confidence in cashier’s checks, he said. Cashier’s checks are generally considered much safer than personal checks. Personal checks can “bounce” when there are insufficient funds in the check writer’s account, but cashier’s checks do not bounce.

The counterfeits are generally of excellent quality and may at first fool even the bank, Medeiros said.

Medeiros urged residents to be wary of any offer to buy something they may have for sale that involves more than a straightforward transaction.

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