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See also these related articles by Barbara:

Nigerian Scams on the Rise

More Reports from Readers Who Have Been Targeted by Nigerian Con Artists

Ship-to Names & Addresses Being Used by Nigerian Scammers

 

To learn how to verify the authenticity of a regular check, cashier's check or money order, visit FraudAid.com, which includes a wealth of information about Nigerian scams and how to protect yourself from financial loss.

 

 

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Counterfeit Money Orders
and Credit Cards That Seem Okay

What’s wrong with shipping an order after the money order or MoneyGram has been cashed, or the credit card number you’ve checked comes back as being valid? If the buyer is in a foreign country, you need to take additional steps before shipping.

Edited by Barbara Brabec
Posted September, 2006

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Awhile back, a reader wrote to tell me about an order she had received from a buyer asking for goods to be shipped to a Virginia zip code and paid for by credit card. Being cautious, she said she would ship goods only with pre-payment via an international USD money order, and only after the money order cleared her bank.

"The buyer agreed to this," Monica wrote, "but when he agreed to send the money order, he also asked me to include some cell phones with my order. I figure that if I wait to ship until the money order clears, I'm good, right? I guess I just don't understand the entire scam. ( I did decline to purchase cell phones on his behalf, though.) What I'd like to know is ... how can it be unsafe to accept a cashed and *cleared* money order (OR MoneyGram) before sending goods? Cleared funds are cleared funds, right?"

No. After reading Monica’s e-mail, I Googled "Nigerian money orders" and turned up 11 million Web pages on this topic offering evidence that we should all assume from the get-go that any money order (or cashier's check, MoneyGram, etc.) from Nigeria is likely to be counterfeit. Don't waste your time getting shipping costs; just pass on the order. All the scams require that checks or money orders from the Nigerian contact be deposited in U.S. banks and a portion of those funds then wired back out of the country. The Nigerian checks or money orders later are found to be forged or counterfeited. The scams are basically a form of money laundering. Here’s a link to an article on this topic on Fraud and Scam News (the latest on Email Scams, Phishing and Internet Fraud). 

UNFORTUNATELY. . . not all the counterfeit money orders are coming from Africa. You must also be cautious about orders from other countries as well, including nice countries like Belgium. This reader report illustrates my point:

Debby R. wrote to tell me of a variation on this scam that would have brought a con artist right into her home.

"Fortunately, my husband read about this type of scam on the Internet the night before I was to ship an order to Belgium," she said. "I had received this e-mail from a guy who wanted to buy my product at wholesale – everything I offered. He wanted me to give him a figure, with shipping costs included. Meanwhile, he called me  five or six times saying he had found several outlets for my product in Belgium, and was excited about receiving my order. I told him I wouldn't ship a thing until I saw a money order. (He refused to wire money). I got the money order, and then he called to tell me he had a shipper who would come to my house and pack it up, which would cost less than what I had quoted him for shipment by USPS. He then asked that I send back the excess money he had included in the money order for shipping.

"Luckily, a banker friend told me that counterfeit money orders and cashier checks abound, and this one proved to be a fake, drawn on a bank in the US that didn't issue money orders for more than $500. This money order was much larger, of course, and the number traced to a bank in Belgium that had cashed this money order four months earlier for $20! (It cost me $5 to find out from my bank that the two banking numbers didn't jibe.) I reported this to my Internet provider who automatically hooked me into the FBI, where I learned that they get over 20,000 cases like this a month. (And that’s only the cases actually reported.) The Sheriff said he knew of people who had sent cars overseas and never saw a penny. That old adage about being too good to be true is true! Please tell other crafters out there that this problem is epidemic. My sister is selling furniture on web and the exact same thing happened to her, too."

BUT THE CREDIT CARD CHECKS OUT AS BEING VALID . . .

Patricia Banker explained the problem here in an earlier article (repeated here for your convenience): "At first I figured I had nothing to lose if I got a guaranteed pick-up receipt from the USPS. My merchant account screens and approves all transactions, so even if it wasn't a valid card, I figured I would be protected since I wouldn't ship until it went through. But first, I did a search for the latest Nigerian scams and I found some interesting things. For one thing, they keep changing credit card numbers by one digit till they hit one that works. Bingo! Once they know it's a good one, they use it for all it's worth. Note that it isn't always a Nigerian shipping address; sometimes the shipping address is in the States."

Dessira Tish wrote to say she received an ordered for over $2,000 worth of the baby products she manufactures, to be sent to "Papa-ajao, Mushin, Lagos State, Nigeria." Then they asked if she would purchase two laptop computers for them and ship everything together. "They gave me a credit card number that came back approved after I ran it. But after coming across your site, I called my credit card company and requested they research the number. Of course it came back that the number had been stolen. Thanks for keeping everyone informed!"

Derek Edwards, webmaster of the Computer Textile Design Group site, reported on an order the site had received from Lagos for its online publications. "The order seemed confused with several items being ordered more than once and also the membership discount was being claimed and the ‘customer’ was obviously not a member of our group. The credit card number checked out as a valid Visa card but having received all the usual e-mails concerning windfalls from some beloved long lost relative, I was still suspicious. Then Google pointed me to your website and your page on Nigerian-Scams."

Derek’s e-mail was the third one in a row that I had received from businesses who said the cards they were given also checked out . . until they actually called the bank that issued those cards. In the other two cases, they were told the cards had been stolen. So the trick to knowing for sure seems to lie not just in using the routine checking of a card to validate it, but going straight to the bank that issued the cards and asking them to research that particular number. If the names don't match, you know it has been stolen.

I think we would all be surprised to know just how many credit card numbers have been lifted off the Internet, and how much at risk we all are to identify theft.

Jody James, who operates Cypress Creek Candles, received an -email from "Ms. Stacy James" who supposedly owned a candle shop in Ohio. She asked Jody to send $1500.00 of her candles (all sizes) to an "Olaniyi James at No. 85 Agba Dam Housing Estate Rd in Ilorin, Kwara State Nigeria, 23431. "She gave me three different credit card numbers to cover this order and its shipping costs. We were going to try to ship the candles, but I decided to call the customs department as the forms for air parcel post were confusing. I was advised to reconsider shipping anything to Nigeria and to do further checking on the credit cards. I called our credit card service and was told that the cards were issued through Chase Bank and I needed to call them. I was told that the cards had been put on a "watch" and the names did not match with the name I was given."

After Jody e-mailed her, explaining that the cards were no good, she received a telephone relay call from asking if she had shipped the candles. "She offered to give me another credit card, but I told her that I had contacted the customs department and was advised not to ship anything to Nigeria at this time. She said ‘Okay, Goodbye.’ Hopefully that was the end of that! I also had a request back in June from another person wanting candles shipped to Africa and wanting me to also buy and include a cell phone in the shipment. I politely declined that order! You would think I would have been forewarned with that one! I wish I'd found your website before dealing with these characters!"

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