DA warns of scam

Published 8:04 am Friday, August 24, 2012

District Attorney Walt Merrell wants to remind local residents that it is rarely legit when someone offers you something for nothing – especially by mail.

Merrell said that in the past two weeks, he has received complaints from several people who fell for a mail scam making its way through Covington County.

Packets being delivered by an express delivery service identiy the recipients as evaluators chosen to help evaluate banks and Moneygram outlets in their community.

The letter gives instructions for depositing what appears to be a money order into their personal checking accounts and then proceeding to deduct $100 from the total amount on the money order and wire the remaining amount to a location in another state using Moneygrams.

One of the examples brought to him by a local resident appeared to be a $980 money order. If the recipient followed the instructions, he or she would be out $880.

Local merchants also have been defrauded when they cashed the fake money orders for the recipients. Merrell said one local business reported to him that it was hit for $4,800, and he has heard of other businesses that also have cashed the fake money orders.

Merrell said it is important that merchants not cash the money orders.

“The person who cashes it can only be prosecuted for forgery if it can be proven that he or she were aware it was a fake money order,” he said. “It can be prosecuted, but it is rare that that can be proven.”

Secondly, he said, residents who receive these should shred them and ignore them, although he understands a reluctance to throw away what might be money, especially in a tough economy.

“If it makes you feel better, go to the bank and ask them to confirm whether or not it’s legitimate,” he said.

Merrell said there appears to be evidence that if a person falls for this or similar scams once, he or she is more likely to receive similar other letters.

“Usually, we see one of these every six to eight weeks,” he said. “We have been bombarded this week.”