Dating scam dangerous

While scams of every shape and color have victimized unsuspecting individuals for some time, a variation of these has become prevalent in Alamogordo. Cynthia Tauriac, vice president of Western Bank, and Art Nelson, detective for the Alamogordo Department of Public Safety, spoke with the Daily News Thursday about the latest type now making the rounds.
Tauriac said a female customer of Western Bank was recently victimized by another female through a computer dating service.

"Both women were looking for men on the dating site," Tauriac said. "They became acquainted, when the scam artist told our customer that she, too, was from New Mexico. They got to know each other over a three month period of time," Tauriac said. "Then suddenly the scammer told our customer that she had to return to Nigeria for a family emergency."
Once in Nigeria, the scammer contacted the bank customer and told her she had to pay for all her grandmother's medical expenses. But because Nigeria will not negotiate a check drawn on a U.S. bank, the scammer asked for help with the negotiation of a $4,500 check, Tauriac explained.
The local woman was asked by the scammer if she could negotiate the check and send the funds to a third party in Canada, who would then fly the cash to Nigeria.
"Our customer bought it," Tauriac said. "They negotiated the check through our bank and wired the money to the third party in Canada through Western Union. The check came back as being fraudulent, and unfortunately, our client is now out $4,500."
Tauriac said this is just another form of what is known as the Nigerian, or 419, scam. The name comes from the section of the Nigerian legal code that deals with such scams. Nelson said DPS is seeing an influx of counterfeit money orders, traveler's checks and cashier's checks. He displayed a counterfeit money order from Wal-Mart in the amount of $480 that was recently seized from an unsuspecting individual.

"Looks authentic, doesn't it?" he asked Tuariac.
"It looks real to me," she replied.
"We're seeing this with just about any negotiable instrument that exists," Nelson said.
The scam often arrives to a potential victim in an official-looking envelope from FedEx, UPS, DHL or some other carrier.
"The envelope is legitimate," he said. "It's what inside that is not."

Nelson said if anyone requests help to cash any negotiable instrument, such as a check, money order, cashier's check or traveler's check and then transfer those funds to another location, it's a guarantee that the original instrument is fraudulent.
"The official envelope, like one from FedEx or UPS, is like a 'legitimacy tool' that greatly increases the chance that the potential victim will buy into," he said. "We have innocent people that think they're helping a friend, or worse yet, getting something for nothing."
Tauriac said Western Bank sees an average of five to seven cashier's checks on a daily basis that are bogus. "People need to beware of anything that offers them something for nothing, or a request for help from any person that someone doesn't really know that is asking for any kind of financial help," Tauriac said.
"We have all heard of scams or been victims of one kind of another," Nelson said. "And this is a rather small community. There must be tens of thousands of these scams affecting people in a city the size of Albuquerque."
"These are just variations on the same kinds of scams that have been around for some time," Tauriac said. "People need to be aware of this."

Alamogordo Daily News
By Karl Anderson, Staff Writer

Category: Dating Advice

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