Old scam making way through area
By By Paul Keane
A long-time scam that tries to get people to give away banking, credit card, driver's license and even passport information is making its way through the Atmore area this holiday season.
The scam has been going for years – mainly via mail and telephone solitications – but was making its way through Atmore via e-mail.
In the unsolicited e-mails sent out, the writer says he is involved in a project where millions of dollars has been unused or unclaimed. The writer says those funds have to be transferred through an American bank account, and that he needs someone to provide an account for money to be funneled through.
"Upon our agreement to carry on this business transaction with you," the e-mail typically says, "the said fund will be shared as follows – 75 percent will be for myself and two other of my partners, 20 percent will be for you for using your bank account, 5 percent will be set aside for any expenses that might be incurred by us and you in the proces sof the document and other formalities that will justify you as the rightful owner of this said fund."
Traditionally, once the banking information is acquired, the person who received the e-mail finds out that they have been "had," and that their accounts have been severely dwindled by the people in question.
The two e-mails that have been going around Atmore identify themselves as an engineer with the ministry of mineral resources and energy in South Africa and as Johnson Vander Mulaga of Zimbabwe.
Atmore Director of Public Safety Glenn Carlee said investigators working on another case came across the scam and don't know where it will proceed or what damage has been done.
"This person actually received an $18,000 check from these people and was told to cash it and get $8,000 worth of money orders to send back to them," Carlee said. "While we were investigating another case against this person, we found the money orders and the letters and e-mails that had been sent back and forth.
"Apparently, he was able to cash the check and got the money orders, only to find out later that the check bounced. The people sending the check may have had the money in the bank long enough to verify the funds for cashing purposes, but then pulled it out before it was presented to the bank."
Carlee added that the suspect/victim had also made copies of his driver's license and other indentification to send to the people in question.
"One of the issues in this case, and with other scams being run like this, is that people are asking for driver's license numbers, Social Security Card numbers and even passports," Carlee said. "It's obvious that some people are out there trying to get fake passports so they can enter this country. That is something we really need to guard against, especially with the threats of terrorist attacks."
Carlee said anyone being solicited should be wary, especially during the holiday season.
"I wouldn't release any information regarding credit cards, bank accounts or indentification to anyone over the phone or through e-mail," he said. "This is very important because there are a lot of people out there that want to take advantage of you by using that information.
"If it appears too good to be true, then it probably is. Also, remember that the city has an ordinance against door to door solitications, except for school functions and church organizations."