The local branch of Bank of the West recently reported $10,000 in bogus money orders inadvertently cashed by bank tellers, said Lt. John Forgay of the Craig Police Department.
The scam occurred when a Craig woman began having online conversations with a person whom she said recently moved to Africa and needed help with wire transfers, police said.
The person said the Craig woman would receive the money orders from a third-party cousin living in Oklahoma. After cashing the money orders, the Craig woman was instructed to send the money via Western Union back to the cousin who would forward the money to her online friend living in Africa. Instructions also indicated that the Craig woman could keep a portion of the money for shipping costs and for her time, police said.
The woman allegedly cashed about 10 money orders at the local back for $950 each in about two months, Forgay said.
Police were notified about the incident in mid-March and turned the case over to the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service, Forgay said.
"As much as we tell people (about fraud), this stuff still happens," he said.
Forgay said the Craig woman probably wouldn't face charges be--cause it didn't seem that she acted criminally.
According to the National Fraud Information Center, money orders accounted for 22 percent of the payment methods in fraud cases, last year.
"People need to be very cognizant of who they are talking to and who they are dealing with," said Bank of the West President Tonya Griffith. "There's just all kinds of fraud issues out there, and people need to protect themselves."
The U.S. Postal Inspection Ser--v--ice has warned against the counterfeit money-order scams. Someone typically contacts victims through an Internet chat room or an online auction site, claiming to need financial help to cash money orders. The person in need often claims to be living in a foreign county, often Nigeria, U.S. Postal Service Inspectors said.
"U.S. residents are lured into the scam when they are told they can keep some of the money as a gift of payment for their help," according to the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service Web site. "Victims learn the postal money order is counterfeit only when they attempt to cash it, or when their bank account takes a hit for the full amount when the bank refuses payment on the bogus deposit."
Postal Service domestic money orders come in denominations no larger than $1,000, have a watermark of Benjamin Franklin, a USPS security thread and warning instructions listed on their backsides.