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Nigerian Money Order Scams Hit Close to Home with Santa Barbara Arrest

Police say a local woman detained last month after being tracked by federal investigators has been linked to fraud throughout the country

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer
Local authorities say they believe a Santa Barbara woman accused of possession of counterfeit money orders has facilitated scams throughout the country.

Passion Moore, 47, was arrested in December and is in custody at the Santa Barbara County Main Jail on forgery-related charges. Moore has been linked to Texas, Louisiana and the Los Angeles area, and allegedly facilitates fraud by receiving the money orders and using them as payment, according to Santa Barbara police Detective John Ingram.

Packages of the orders were intercepted by the U.S. Secret Service and Customs agents, and one was let through to Moore, who picked it up and was later contacted by police. She was found to be in possession of several hundred of the “Citibank” orders in her car, each valued at $1,800.35, according to police.

Ingram said authorities believe the total loss prevented by the seizure was in excess of $1 million.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter said it doesn’t appear that Moore victimized anyone with the batch of money orders she received the day police contacted her.

Ingram said police have no information on related cases, but the fraudulent money order scam is very common in the United States. He said Nigeria is the source of many of the scams, but it’s rare that the mailings come directly from that country, which is a red flag.

“We are seeing more money orders that are either someone trying to pass them or realize they’re bogus and notify us of that fact,” Ingram said. “We caught this one, and there are 100 more right behind it.”

One woman was offered a $1,800 money order for an item she posted on Craigslist if she sent the change back with the item and realized it was a scam, Ingram said.

Sometimes it takes a family member to recognize something is not above bar.

Andy Seybold, a mobile computing consultant and Noozhawk contributor, said he had a relative who answered an advertisement placed in the Santa Barbara News-Press. The classified ad appeared in the Nov. 6 edition and read, “I am looking for an energetic and diligent personal assistant. Position is fairly flexible, so students are welcome to apply, prt.cole1@gmail.com.”

The advertisement appears in many other publications and different positions offered with the same email address appear on http://www.careersite.com.

A local couple were traveling and needed someone to pay their finances, so they planned to send money orders for that purpose — or so they said. Seybold often works with law enforcement and recognized the proposal as a ruse. He called police and the FBI in Los Angeles, who confirmed it was a scam.

“If she does not do it, they will just find someone else and keep moving on,” Seybold said.

The many emails between his female relative, who does not want to be identified, and the scammers included an employment contract for Magnum Inc. that looked legitimate, Seybold said.

His relative then said she wasn’t interested and would return the package when it arrived, but it came to a local UPS Store, and Seybold then refused it.

“It was marked that it had come from Nigeria, which was the final indication to me that this was a scam,” he said.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offers tips on avoiding scams involving fake checks and money orders, as does Craigslist.

— Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli

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January 24, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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