FBI Warns of Reshipping and Counterfeit Checks Scams

Check cashing scamThe Internet Crime Complaint Center's latest scam alert includes an elaborate reshipping ploy used to steal personal information and a counterfeit check scheme targeting real estate professionals.

Alerts by the IC3, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), reflect recent cyber-crime trends and new takes on existing scams. Recent alerts have included warnings about potassium iodide price gouging and virus-laden Osama Bin Laden spam.Here's a summary of the two new threats:

Job Scam Used To Steal Personally Identifiable Information

Traditional reshipping scams entailed criminals hiring people to receive, readdress or reship packages -- usually paid for with stolen or fake credit cards -- to addresses in the UK, Nigeria, or more recently, Russia.

Although many reshippers recognized and participated in the scam, others were unaware of their role in perpetuating fraud -- until they received calls from companies that sold the merchandise or owners of the stolen credit card numbers.

In a new twist on this scam, fraudsters hire unsuspecting victims as "Gift Wrapper Associates" to receive and gift-wrap merchandise before shipping it to another address. Recent complaints to the IC3 by victims of this scam say they replied to ads on Craigslist, while others say they were contacted by email, possibly via a resume they posted online.

Regardless of how they were contacted, the complaintants said the hiring process included a phone interview that required them to divulge personally identifiable information. The scammers then supplied them with the necessary materials, including boxes, wrapping paper, tape, ribbons and bows.

But the victims' personally identifiable information collected during the application process, the FBI warns, may be used to obtain credit for additional fraudulent purchases or for other criminal activities. This unauthorized use of personal information typically occurs in various kinds of identity theft-related scams such as phishing, and counterfeit check and other work-at-home scams.

Counterfeit Check Scam Targets Realtors and Real Estate Attorneys

The IC3 says it's received complaints about counterfeit check scams for years, which typically involve criminals convincing unsuspecting victims to cash checks or money orders and then wire them a portion of the funds overseas. Only after wiring the funds do the victims learn the check was fake -- leaving them holding the bag for the full amount.

The latest variation on this scam targets realtors and real estate attorneys, who are being contacted by overseas fraudsters purportedly interested in purchasing property in the U.S.

After requesting information on property listings, the criminals indicate their desire to pay cash for the property they're interested in, and ask the realtors for the name of a local attorney to handle the purchase and conduct the closing.

Once a selling price is negotiated, the real estate attorneys receive checks typically written for hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars. Once the attorney deposits the check -- but before it clears -- the scammers contact them with a plausible reason to wire them a portion of the funds to their account.

The checks used in these scams, the IC3 says, are often from legitimate business accounts that have been appropriated illegally by the fraudsters.

If you think you've been the victim of one of these online scams -- or any other -- you can file a complaint with the IC3 here.

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