The Ocean City Police Department is investigating a check fraud scam involving the possible misuse of actual bank accounts and check numbers. The scam, which targets an un-suspecting victim, by sending a check drawn from a well know retail bank in an amount between $800 - $1000. Along with the check is an elaborate letter of instructions for the victim, which claims the victim has been “pre-selected” for employment as a “Customer Service Evaluator.” The instructions in the letter advise the victim to deposit the check into the victim’s checking account, at which time the victim is then instructed to call a number printed on the letter. Each letter has a unique “Rep I.D.” number and when the victim calls the number on the letter, they are asked to provide the unique “Rep I.D.” number to the person on they are speaking with.
The preliminary investigation has revealed that the check sent to the perspective victim is not real, however; the account number and the check number are. Because of this, there have been incidents where victims have had the check actually clear and deposits have resulted. At this time, the victim’s bank will later contact the account holder of the compromised bank account and will contact their bank advising of the invalid transaction, which will eventually be traced to the deposit made by the unsuspecting originating victim who deposited the check.
Prior to the discovery that the check is bad, the victim has been in telephone contact with the scam-artist, who is usually cleaver and sounds very convincing. The scammer has instructed the victim to go to the nearest large chain retail store, which is usually a Wal-Mart. Victims are instructed that they are employed as a “customer service evaluator” and will be evaluating the stores customer service, cleanliness and security. The victim is then advised to ask someone in customer service to conduct the following transaction:
- Purchase a Green Dot, Money Pac Reload Card in the amount of about $900.00.
- They are told to rate the customer service during the transaction on a scale of 1 to 10.
- The victim is instructed to not purchase a pre-paid “VISA” card only the Green Dot, Money Pac Reload card.
- The victim then has to re-contact their assigned “Global Test Market training coordinator” at the original number the victim called.
- Once in contact with the scammer pretending to be the “training coordinator” the victim is asked to provide the Green Dot, Money Pac Reload Card number over the telephone as a means of verification the victim has actually completed the task.
- The scammer has even asked the victim to send the actual store receipt to the address on the letter.
- The victim is then told the balance of the unused funds, which is usually $120. Is theirs to keep.
- The victim is then instructed to wait a day or two and attempt to use the card to make a purchase. (By this time, the scammer has used the card number previously provided by the victim to either deposit the value of the card or make a purchase) When the victim attempts to use the card for a purchase the card will not have sufficient funds for the purchase.
Citizens should be cautious when receiving funds that are unfamiliar. “As a general rule, citizens should go with their instinct,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Further, citizens should never provide personal information including social security number, birth dates, passwords or home addresses to unknown “businesses or individuals. Also, never give out banking information or credit card account numbers over the phone to persons or businesses you cannot verify as legitimate.
The Ocean City Police Department reminds citizens that the holidays are an opportunity for criminals to take advantage of us when we are at our most vulnerable. By practicing a few easy proactive measures and reporting these type of scams, citizens can make it tough for criminals to dampen the holiday spirit and take advantage of friends and family members. With the holiday season upon us, citizens tend to make a lot of purchases on the internet and through catalogues. Citizens should make certain the credit card you use is not directly linked to your checking/savings or money market accounts. In addition, bank and credit card accounts should be routinely monitored for suspicious and unauthorized transactions.
If you feel you believe there is unauthorized activity occurring on any of your financial accounts (bank or credit) immediately contact your financial institution and report the issue. If you are the victim of a theft report the theft to your local law enforcement agency.
Have a safe happy holiday season and a happy new year.