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Locals fall victim to counterfeit check scams

The Hazlehurst Police Department reminds citizens to be careful who they wire money to, and to be careful about cashing questionable checks.

“People could face felony charges for uttering forgery,” for cashing counterfeit checks, cautioned Lt. Chris Granger. “Have the bank verify the check first. Don’t go cash it at the store.”

The Hazlehurst police are currently working about ten cases where local people have received counterfeit checks in the mail and cashed them at local stores. Some were victims of online scams where their information was intercepted while seeking employment or engaged in some other online activity. Some received notification of a sweepstakes win that turned out to be bogus.

The scammers mail a counterfeit check to the unsuspecting recipient and then ask for a certain amount of the money to be wired back to them. The recipient cashes the check and wires the money as instructed, little realizing at the time that not only are they lining the pockets of crooks, they may also be held criminally liable for cashing a counterfeit check.

The excuse for wiring the money back to them may be “for insurance” or something like that, Granger explained. People think it’s okay because they think it’s the “company’s” own money that they are sending back to them. But the checks are bogus.

These checks may look like they are drawn on a U.S. company, but Granger warns that many of these so-called companies are actually overseas scam artists. And once the money is wired overseas, there is little hope of recovering any of it.

“There’s not much we can do when it goes overseas,” Granger said.

So the victims of these types of scams are both the recipients of the checks, who may be held responsible for cashing counterfeit checks, as well as the stores who cash them who are out the money.

Citizens are reminded to use caution about any financial transaction involving strangers. Do not cash a questionable check or wire money to anyone they don’t know. Take a questionable check to a bank for verification before having it cashed. The banks are refusing to cash these suspicious checks, Granger pointed out.

For more information call Lt. Chris Granger at Hazlehurst Police Department, 601-894-1181.

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