OC Police Warn Of Fraud Scam

alert Ocean City resident last month helped resort
police thwart a local attempt at a check and money order scam circulating
around the state and the country.

During the week of March
13, Ocean City police detectives investigated the
first known local manifestation of a check and/or money order scam. The scam
going around involves an unsuspecting victim who receives a check from an
out-of-state bank in the mail. In almost every case reported thus far, the
check is written paid to the order of the victim and is usually in an amount
around $5,000.

The sender of the check
informs the victim he or she is the winner of a “secret fantasy shopping spree”
and the letter instructs the victim to deposit the check into his or her
checking account. The sender then instructs the unsuspecting victim to purchase
approximately $3,000 worth of gift cards from major chain stores such as
Wal-Mart, Target, Circuit City, Best Buy or Macy’s, to name a few.

The letter entices the
victim to participate by illustrating he or she will “get paid for shopping.”
Once the victim has purchased the gift cards, he or she is instructed to fill
out the customer service survey that accompanied the check, and then send all the
gift cards purchased back to the sender with the returned customer service
survey. The victim is told once they complete the tasks, they will receive a
new check for the balance of the remaining money, typically around $2,000 in
the cases investigated thus far.

In the case reported in Ocean City
in March, a potential victim alerted detectives upon receipt of the initial
check and the fraud was stopped before the victim lost any money. The potential
victim was spared any loss although other victims around the area and the state
have not been as fortunate, according to detectives.

“This is one of several
types of fraudulent check or money order scams,” said OCPD Detective Brett
Case. “We have seen these often. People need to remember all checks and money
orders take a minimum of three to five days to clear, and until the check or
money order clears, most banks take money from your accounts first.”

Case offered common
sense advice to any individual targeted by this scam any other similar fraud
involving checks or money orders. “If the deal seems too good to be true, it
probably is,” he said.

The OCPD took the
opportunity this week to remind people to be wary of suspicious checks or money
orders promising lucrative deals from unnamed sources. Anyone who receives such
an offer is encouraged to call the OCPD.