Internet scam fakes cashier's checks
Date: October 13, 2003
Consumers across the United States are being bilked in a scam that often finds victims through the Internet and then counts on their trust in cashier's checks.
Cashier's checks can be counterfeit, and banks that accept them from customers don't consider themselves liable. By one bank's account, the value of the counterfeits amounts to millions of dollars. Frank Fiorino, 64, of Westbury, N.Y., fell victim to the scam in May, and he's out $3,700.
In recent interviews, Fiorino recalled that on May 20, he received by Federal Express what seemed a valid cashier's check. It bore the name of First National Bank of Polk County, based in Haines City, Fla., and was part of a deal to sell a 1977 Cadillac Eldorado that Fiorino had advertised for sale on Web sites.
On May 21, he deposited the check at Fleet's Central Islip, N.Y., branch and was told he would have access to the funds the next day. On May 22, Fiorino said, he made a withdrawal after Fleet told him the money was available to him. A week later, he learned that Fleet had received notice from the Florida bank that the cashier's check was counterfeit.
Consumers need to be wary, said Jim Schepker, a spokesman for Fleet. The cashier's check sent Fiorino was for $7,900 even though the payment due for the car was less - $4,200. A person identifying himself in e-mails as a buyer's representative told Fiorino to send the difference by Western Union to "Mr. Kenedy Egwuasi" in London.
When an e-mail told Fiorino the buyer had suffered a stroke and wanted the rest of the money returned, Fiorino called law-enforcement agencies.
Detective Sgt. James Tilton, deputy commanding officer for Nassau County's Crimes Against Property Squad, said the fraud has all the markings of what are known as Nigerian scams, a name given because some trace back to that country.
Tilton said the scam's apparent overseas roots complicate enforcement efforts. So, he urged consumers to beware: "If you ask for $20,000 and somebody offers to give you 30, you better make sure you have the 20 before you give back the 10."
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