May 20, 2005: Headlines: Fraud: Internet: Postal Fraud: The Union Leader: "Help me get back to the states," pleads someone claiming to be in the Peace Corps - Experts warn of growing perils of postal fraud

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Internet : Internet: May 20, 2005: Headlines: Fraud: Internet: Postal Fraud: The Union Leader: "Help me get back to the states," pleads someone claiming to be in the Peace Corps - Experts warn of growing perils of postal fraud

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"Help me get back to the states," pleads someone claiming to be in the Peace Corps - Experts warn of growing perils of postal fraud

Help me get back to the states, pleads someone claiming to be in the Peace Corps - Experts warn of growing perils of postal fraud

"Help me get back to the states," pleads someone claiming to be in the Peace Corps - Experts warn of growing perils of postal fraud

Experts warn of growing perils of postal fraud

By CAROL CARTER

Union Leader Correspondent

MEREDITH They meet on Internet auction sites, in chat rooms and dating services. Then the con artist hooks his victim. They promise to send a bank check or money order to pay for that item.

"Help me get back to the states," pleads someone claiming to be in the Peace Corps.

"I'll marry you but need money for the trip," says another.

"Make money working at home. I'll show you how."

Granite State bankers shared alarming stories about these frauds at the 18th annual N.H. Bankers Association Compliance Conference yesterday, where they gained valuable tips from U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Blanchard.

Blanchard, speaking to about 50 association members at the Chase House, said tellers should have a real postal money order handy for comparison. International gangs produce remarkable fakes but can't duplicate the watermark, Blanchard noted.

"Hold it up to the light, and Ben Franklin should jump right out at you," Blanchard advised.

During the past year, nearly 3,800 counterfeit postal money orders totaling about $20 million were cashed in the United States. Most were printed overseas with the hub of activity in Lagos, Nigeria.

One con artist claimed he inherited a business in Africa and needed workers in the United States. A woman he hooked on the Internet agreed to cash postal service money orders from "clients," deduct her $300 salary and mail the balance to the company in Africa via Western Union.

Victims fall for scams that promise everything from money to marriage, bankers said. Karen Cornell, compliance officer at Village Bank and Trust in Gilford, told about a 30-something man who was scammed by an alleged bride. Claiming she couldn't cash a money order at her location, she sent him four counterfeit money orders, directing him to return funds for her trip to the Lakes Region. While trying to cash the money orders at a post office, the man learned the documents were fake.

"He was going to marry this girl," said Cornell.

But this "girl" was really a con artist preying on gullible victims, said Blanchard. They typically send photos portraying themselves as beautiful women or well-dressed businessmen.

"They get a live sucker on the line and empty his bank account. They're experts," said Blanchard.

Susan LeDuc, regulatory specialist at the law firm of Gallagher, Callaghan and Gartrell in Concord, recalls an irate bank customer who refused to believe he was being duped.

"These people tell some very believable, heart-wrenching stories. They sent this man a picture of a family, and he was motivated to help them. He couldn't believe he was being taken," said LeDuc.

Although cashier's checks have long been a trusted method to transfer money, these counterfeiters are exploiting that trust, according to LeDuc. Fake cashier's checks are steadily rising because of good quality printers and the increase in private sales via the Internet and online auctions, she added.

Postal inspectors are now partnering with law enforcement and overnight delivery firms to try to stem the tide, Blanchard said. Nobody has yet been arrested in New Hampshire in connection with postal money order fraud, he said.

Meanwhile, educating the public is critical, Cornell said.

"Every bank in here has had some brush with these things. We should get the word out that it's buyer beware," said Cornell.





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RPCVs: Post your stories or press releases here for inclusion next week.

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Story Source: The Union Leader

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Fraud; Internet; Postal Fraud

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