Police warn of financial, wire transfer schemes - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Police get more financial crimes complaints

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Savannah-Chatham Metro Police are seeing more complaints about online schemes aimed at defrauding consumers.

Police are specifically urging consumers to beware of work-at-home and secret shopper schemes.

"The number of cases is growing so rapidly, we actually have to triage them to determine which we can work on," said Star Cpl. Raymond Woodberry of the SCMPD Financial Crimes Division, in a statement. "We have to focus on those with a higher possibility of solution and even then very few of our victims will be able to recover their losses."

Police are hearing from up to five victims a month who said they had been cheated out of money by employers they have never met in work-at-home schemes.

The SCMPD Financial Crimes Division outlines some schemes they're seeing:

Internet work-at-home ploys - Websites sell their people's addresses to other businesses, including those who claim to be looking for secret shoppers. It invites victims to apply for a job via an email with a detailed questionnaire. Then the victim is hired by a company, which sends a cashier's check. 

In one case, a victim was hired to critique a telegraph service. The company sent a check for $3,500, asked the victim to cash it at their bank and wire money back to a given address. The secret shopper was told to keep a payment of $200. When the money was wired back, the victim was instructed to critique the wire service.

Several days later, the victim was told by their bank that the check was fraudulent and was ordered to return the money to their bank. The recipients of the wired money end up keeping the funds.

Rental scheme - Another scheme that's on the rise is luring several tenants pay deposits for the same house or apartment that may not even exist. It's typically pitched to students or people from out of town who want a place to live until they find a permanent residence.

Several such incidents have occurred during popular events such as the St. Patrick's Day. Several come to town with leases on the same property to find out that the landlord cannot be found.

Sales of pricey items - Another is the purchase or sales opportunity of a high-dollar item, such as a vehicle. Victims are given a Vehicle Identification Number and photographs for a vehicle by someone who is claiming to be the seller and owner of the car.

In one case, a victim paid for a car, received assurances that it was being shipped and never got the car or heard from the seller again.

Victims received bogus certified checks for items they sold online. One victim was paid $2,000 for an $800 item and agreed to return the $1,200 that was accidentally overpaid. Several days later the check bounced, according to police.

A victim found out the check was fraudulent and told the bank to hold the cash until police could arrive.

The bank discovered that the account had been set up by another victim of a work-at-home scheme. That person had been hired to set up the account so money could deposited to wired to another account each week, according to police.

Police suggest that when sending money using banks to wait until the check or money order successfully clears by the issuing bank before sending any item or spending any money that was received.

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