Another overseas scam has recently hit Sweetwater. According to Sweetwater Police Officer Danny Heine, a local business was the victim of a scam involving a counterfeit money order sent to the Philippines by a local resident.
The business owner reported to Heine that the customer had cashed a money order and sent some of the cashed money to the Philippines via the store's Western Union services. The customer came in the next week, cashing the same amount of money and sending the same amount of money to the same address. The business owner noticed that the date on the money order was also the same, which raised a red flag and authorities were then notified. The business owner shortly after discovered that the first money order cashed was sent back by the bank as being counterfeit.
According to Officer Heine, the money order looked legit. "The only way to tell that the money order was counterfeit was to hold it up to the light and notice the indicators such as George Washington's face not being on the money order as it should have been. Another way to tell if a money order is real is to hold a black light to it and see a glow in the seal. Everything else on the money order looked to be real."
The resident that cashed the money order is considered both a victim and a suspect in the case according to Heine. "I am not sure if it can be prosecuted, as she is also a victim in the scam, but the business owner was the main victim in the scam."
The money order was made out for $975 and the one cashing the money order was to keep $150 for themselves if they cashed and sent the money the next day and $100 after the first day. A letter sent with the money order claimed to be from a mystery shopper evaluation team and funds were to be sent to Mary Cox in Manilla, Philippines in U.S. currency. The letter told the 'mystery shopper' to only cash the money order at their bank at which they have an account running stating, "as a customer to your bank you are highly recognized."
The letter went on to read, "Locate a Western Union outlet near you to conduct the survey by patronizing their services. You are to appear as a potential customer sending a Western Union transfer. Deduct $100 for yourself and wire the rest to our accountant in Philippines given in the information for the sole purpose of this survey."
The letter goes on telling the customer to observe the services provided from the Western Union representative to be evaluated in a questionnaire to be sent at a later date to the customer.
Officer Heine warns residents to not fall victim to these types of scams. "If you think that a money order is counterfeit, do not cash it. Take it to the bank to make sure that the money order is real."