It's a new twist on an old scam that's evolved from letters to the Internet.
But so-called " Nigerian letter fraud" seems to keep working.
Craig Police Lt. John Forgay said one local family transferred nearly $300,000 over a five-year period on false promises from abroad of some $34 million in mineral rights waiting to be had.
"A lot of people hang on hoping for some money in the end," Forgay said.
Forgay said the latest tweak in the scam stems from a Hayden business owner who was contacted online by a perpetrator to purchase goods -- at first a seemingly legitimate transaction.
But the man received a counterfeit cashier's check endorsed in the amount of $6,000 for a purchase of about $1,500 worth of goods.
He was then asked to wire the difference via Western Union back to the unknown source.
The fake check was from a real bank but a non-existent account, according to a news release from the department.
"Somebody made $4,000 for nine or 10 emails inside a week," Forgay said. " By the time a spot is identified (where the money order was received), they're gone."
Warning signs were missed as the perpetrator identified himself in various emails as residing in both New Jersey and Florida. Individuals
selling items via eBay are now also being targeted, according to
"You should be suspicious of any vagueness in exactly what the person on the other end does, or where he or she lives," Forgay said.
Information in the cases is forwarded to the U.S. Secret Service, but the speed in which the scam is executed makes it difficult to track down perpetrators, he said.
The fraud is hardly new. The Craig Police Department receives two to three queries each week from businesses or residents receiving the emails.
The fraud started with letters and then emails -- claiming to represent a wealthy individual or group with Nigerian interests -- promising recipients a percentage of several million U.S. dollars in exchange for help in transferring money to the United States.
Victims' bank accounts are raided upon providing account numbers for the fraudulent transfer or when new accounts are created.
Between 300 to 500 similar email scams are forwarded to federal authorities daily, according to the U.S. Secret Service's Web site.
Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org