"Truth or Consequences" - U.S. Postal Inspection Service Video

United States Postal Inspection Service2005

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum
Washington, DC, United States

Imagine you receive a check in the mail and you're told to deposit it into your bank account . . . and the money is yours to keep. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? This film reveals the type of scams known as "419 fraud" and provides tips on how you can avoid being tricked.

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  • Title: "Truth or Consequences" - U.S. Postal Inspection Service Video
  • Creator: United States Postal Inspection Service
  • Date Created: 2005
  • Transcript: Time! Let's log off, Becky, and get out of here. Hey, I got eight hits on that last batch of "help wanted" ads. I was right in the middle of chatting with Stuart, the clown from Pittsburg who thinks we're going to get married. Did he get that check you sent him last week to help with the wedding expenses? Yeah. Just give it a few days, let the money show up in his account, and Bam! I'll get him to send it right back to me. You know, I'll make up some emergency expense that suddenly came up that I had to cover. Fool won't know what hit him. What did you tell this one? Oh, this one? I told him that I am putting myself through nursing school, modeling underwear for catalogues. That one's almost too easy. The guy probably had never had a real date in his life. Yeah, but he's still going to wonder why I bailed on him in the chat. You know the rules. Never stay wired for more than thirty minutes. I've already sniffed another open network near the motel. We can log on there later and finish up. OK, but I still want to call him. I don't want him to start getting suspicious or something before I've hit him up for the green. But use the prepaid phone and keep it short. I don't want him to have anything to connect back to us. Chill, Abs. I know the drill. Well don't screw up. I'm like Paris baby. Orange ain't my color. So, who are you supposed to be today, Niece? I'm a sixty-three-year-old woman named Brenda, recently retired from school teaching, and I've settled in New Mexico. Yeah? I can see that. You already got the divorce and the cat. That could totally be you in about thirty years. That's cute, Lang. I wonder what that says about you, though. You play better females than I do. She's got a point, Howie. Remember that mope from Nigeria last month? I think he was in love with you. Any leads on our "work at home" scams out west? Yeah. There's several new job listings on one of the resume websites this morning. It's the usual pitch. "Wanted: international company seeks payment processor." These guys claim they're from Ireland, and they need someone to process payments to avoid making customs fees. You thinking it's our "coffee shop bandits?" Fits their "M.O." The "coffee shop bandits"….that's what we've been calling them for weeks now. We've tracked them to a series of coffee shops, hotels, laundromats, and other locations in the Southwest. They use public wi-fi hotspots to connect to the internet wirelessly. Their scams cover a whole range of internet fraud with one common link - they all depend on counterfeit checks and money orders. The payment processing clerk con is one of their favorites. They target people who want or need to work from home - retirees, single moms with kids, even people with disabilities. Once the person accepts the job as a payment processor, they're asked to open a checking account for the overseas business. In a few days a series of checks arrive from their customers. The new employee is told to deposit these checks, and once they've cleared, to wire ninety percent of the money to their employer. The clerk is told they can keep ten percent of the payments as their salary. When they check their available balance, the money is there. But actually it can take weeks for a check to clear or be discovered as counterfeit. But the ATM said that the funds were available. Yes, it did. At the time it was in there but in five or six days… If the person withdraws money during this period, then they become responsible for covering the bank's loss. But I've spent some of the money… We've seen victims lose tens of thousands of dollars on this type of scam. This job posting is nearly identical to the one we saw last week. Hey, if it's working, why change? There are thousands of new people who look at these "help wanted" postings every day. Where did you tell him you lived? Truth or Consequences. Priceless. OK, so what else we got on these guys, Derek? Well, first of all, they're not guys. Remember that last trace that we ran? An inspector went to the scene. Ran into a dead end. They got their room with a stolen credit card…fake names on the registration. But he spotted an ATM across the street, and we managed to get these photos. But these photos, they don't give us a whole lot to go on. You underestimate me. Another phone was used at three of the bandit’s locations. And this phone, it's not a prepaid cell phone. It's registered to a Becky Meyers of Key Largo, Florida. NCIC says she got a list of arrests for all kinds of petty stuff - everything from shoplifting to bad checks. OK, I'm impressed. Any idea who her friend is, Sherlock? Hey, man, I had to leave something for you guys to do, right? You're not calling one of the punks on that phone, are you? No, dope. I'm calling Mikey. I need to get some refills on those checks. Your boyfriend gives me the creeps. Whatever. You don't like any of my men. Besides, he's better than anybody we know with Photoshop. Look how legit these things look. I told you to stop flashing those! You're going to blow this whole deal! I'm going to blow this whole deal? There wouldn't be a deal if it wasn't for me! This sweet ride…my deal! Hardly! You and your boyfriend would still be passing bad checks for beer money at the Piggly Wiggly if it wasn't for me! Still, you've got to admit, Mikey's got good hands…and mad skills on that printer. So what did you turn up on Becky Meyers? Hey, I'll check you a little later. Thanks. According to her parole officer, her printer is a local loser named Michael Friedman. They've been an item since high school. He spends most of his time playing those multi-player games online, printing counterfeit checks, just as a way for him to keep the lights on. So who's playing "Thelma" to her "Louise?" Our best bet is another high school friend, Abbey Seals. She was a computer science major at FSU until she dropped out last year. Miami cops busted her on a DUI a few months back, Becky Meyers in the car. Almost violated her parole, but the judge cut her a break. So this Abbey Seals may have helped take their bad check racket high-tech? Looks like it. Trouble is, her PO says she's skipped. Hasn't check in in three months. That fits the timeline to our scams. But we stills can't actually connect them to any of the frauds, or any of the victims' wire transfers. Which brings us back to Brenda, from Truth or Consequences. Alright, do it. I'm on it. Oh, damn it! Stupid freaking woman! God! What is it? It's that woman from New Mexico, the teacher. Now she can't figure out how to send a simple wire transfer. She deposited those checks like two weeks ago. If she doesn't send the money soon, the bank's going to tip her off, and the whole thing is going to fall apart. How can one woman be so dense? Did she email you? No, we're chatting on IM. Oh wait, get this. She didn’t trust the guy at the wire service. Good god! Stupid broad took the money out in cash! Well, how much? Ninety percent. Almost thirty thousand dollars. You're kidding. Now what? Well, she's wants to meet in person so she can deliver it. Doesn't she think the company is located in Ireland? Yes, but remember? She thinks we have an office in Forth Worth. Yeah, OK, OK. No way in hell do we ever meet anyone in person. That's the rule, remember? Yes. Well we have to think of something else. Are you kidding me? Stupid hag could barely open the account. She's never going to brainstorm a wire transfer. And besides, the bank is going to call her any day now and tip her off. The money's going to walk. Then it walks. We never meet anyone in person. Time! What? Bull! Log off. No, No! What am I going to tell her? Come on. It's thirty grand! Tell her you'll call her later. Now log off, Becky. I mean it! They just logged off. She said she was going to call me on the phone. Do you think they bought it? I don't know. They've been playing it really safe. They might now be willing to risk a meeting in person. We better hope that they're getting greedy. If they keep using these web-based email services to open networks, limiting their access time, we're never going to be able to connect them to any of these "work at home" scams. Come on. Yeah. UC phone. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Caller ID says, "unknown." It's her. Yeah, trace that call. OK? Go. Hello? Hi there, Brenda? Oh, hello, dear. Hey listen, I was thinking that you really shouldn't come all the way to Forth Worth, especially carrying all that cash on you. We're concerned about our liability, because our insurance wouldn't cover it if anything happened to you. Oh, I just don't trust those wire services, dear. My father tried to wire money to my Uncle Benjamin once when he was having twin girls. And he tried to wire it to Tulsa, Oklahoma, but it went to another Benjamin in Kansas City. They didn't even have the same last name. Kansas City is nowhere near Tulsa. Yeah, I know where Tulsa is, Brenda. Hey, listen, my partner and I, we're going to be in your area. We're going to be looking at some land that we're considering. Why don't you at least let us meet you halfway there, you know, to save you some trouble. Oh, it's no problem, dear, to drive to Fort Worth. I have a half sister in Irving. I've been dying to see her miniatures collection. No, no, no, Brenda, really, I insist. Listen, Friday, let's meet at… You know what? Why don't we meet at Alamogordo. Do you know where Alamogordo is? Oh, certainly, dear. Everyone knows where Alamogordo is. That's where they tested the first atomic bombs in the 1940's. It was part of the Manhattan Project. That's a funny name, actually, as it was here in New Mexico and nowhere near New York. Well, that was really fascinating, Brenda. Well, listen, OK, Friday it is. I'll call you on your cell phone when we get there, like right around lunchtime. Of course, I'll bring you a receipt. Alright, well listen, Friday it is. I've got to go, Brenda. OK? Alright. Bye bye. Harmless. We'll meet her in the middle of nowhere, in and out, ten minutes, we're done. Less if I could get her to shut up for five seconds. Cake. I still don't like it. What if she's a cop? I swear, you must think I'm mental. Listen, I'll go in there, and I'll talk to her. You wait, out in the car. If something smells funny, we'll walk. Can't tie us to the phone calls, or the checks. Thank you. Did you get it? Yep. It's the same signature as the phone used to call the other victims. I'd like to see their lawyer explain that one. We're still going to need them to show up for the transfer in order to pick them up. I mean, by the time they do this trace, they could be a hundred miles from here. No problem, we'll pick them up on Friday. Aren't you kind of forgetting something? What? They're expecting a sixty-three-year-old named Brenda. It's after one. Look sharp, everyone. Possible suspect vehicle - white Ford Mustang, late model. We couldn't make the tags off the ATM photo. Location two, clear. Niece, they called you again? No, it's been forty-five minutes. She said they were running late. They'll be here. Our suspect is approaching, east side of the street. No sign of her partner. Bingo. Becky, dear. Brenda, I wasn't sure that was you. Sorry we're running late. It took a little longer to tour the property. Oh, that's fine, dear. I've just been sitting here enjoying my tea, and reading up on the history of this wonderful little town. Did you know that Robert Oppenheimer was almost convicted of being a traitor and a spy? Can you imagine? You look a lot younger than I expected. Oh, you're sweet, dear. OK, OK, Thelma's getting nervous. I don't think she's buying Niece's makeup. Find Louise, fast! I got her. She's parked just down from the war wagon - white Mustang in that alley. I'm on it, Lang. Watch my back. Everyone else cover Niece. Wait for my signal. I have the money right here. I put it in this bag. I didn't want to attract attention, you know. It's under my needle point. No, that's OK, Granny. You keep it. I'm giving you a raise. Federal Agent! You're under arrest! No! No, no, no! This is complete crap! It didn't touch that money. Police! Police! Freeze! Hands up! Hands up! Clear the door, folks, please clear the door. Thank you. Listen, everybody, thanks for your help. I need everybody outside. There's nothing else to see here. Thank you very much. Get up. Howie, she's all yours. Have a nice day. Did you have any trouble with her friend? Nah. She's already trying to pin the entire scam on Becky and her boyfriend. Yeah, she didn't take the bait. She's got several phony checks in her purse. Well, we're still going through the car, but so far, we've got lots of fake checks, prepaid cell phones, and your little friend Derek is going to have a field day with the laptops. Oh yeah, we got a whole lot of love letters from Mikey the printer. Can't wait to send in the Miami team. Did you recover any of the victims' moneys? Not a whole lot. About eight grand on them. Whole lot of neat toys and shwag from the shopping sprees though. Yeah, well at least they're off the street. Yeah, this time they're all looking at ten to twenty for mail fraud. You know, I've got to tell you. You look…ridiculous. I told you you weren't going to pass for sixty-three. What's the matter with you? Thanks to some solid police work and the efforts of the Technical Services Division, these two high-tech crooks are behind bars. Unfortunately, there are hundreds more of them out there, operating these scams from around the world. Remember, on the internet, these crooks can pretend to be anyone that they want. Often, they construct elaborate fronts to make them seem legitimate - fake websites, phony pictures, even references that can vouch for them. We refer to this as "the anonymity of the internet." But don't be fooled. There are very few legitimate jobs that allow you to work from your home, and none that involve processing checks or money orders. To avoid falling into these traps, remember these important tips. Number one: Never accept a check or money order for payment for any items if the check is greater than the amount owed to you. These so-called "overpayment scams" seem like a ticket to easy money, but usually leave the victim with an overdrawn account and empty pockets. Number two: Just because your ATM or bank statement says "funds available" doesn't mean that the check has actually cleared. By law, banks must make funds available to you in a few days. After that you can access the funds, but the check may not clear for weeks. Until the check does clear, you're legally responsible for the deposit, as well as any funds that you withdraw. Number three: Many lottery or sweepstakes frauds involve counterfeit checks. You receive a check for a portion of your winnings and are told to deposit it. You're then instructed to use a portion of these moneys to pay for taxes or fees, with a promise of even bigger winnings to come. Don't buy it. It may seem like easy money, but it will cost you big in the end. And lastly, don't forget your good common sense. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no "get rich quick" schemes, and you can be sure that no one needs your help to transfer millions of dollars into or out of their country. Cops call these types of scams "419 fraud." They've been around for years, only now they've been updated for the information age. Play it safe, and log off on these fake check scams. For more information on how to avoid counterfeit check fraud, visit our website at www.fakechecks.org.
  • External Link: Behind the Badge: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Transcripción en español