Exclusive: Sheriff's Office investigating money order scam

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Local authorities are issuing a warning about a new scam circulating in the Columbus area.

It all starts with an email that for many in these tough times, may be hard to delete. It describes how to make some quick cash by becoming a secret shopper.

"Basically, what it states is that you'll be receiving some money grams in the mail. And it generally states they'd be there the next day," said Lieutenant Steve Sikes, Chief of Investigations for the Sheriff's Office.

Once victims get the money orders in the mail, the email gives them a break-down of what to do next.

First, they have to cash the money orders and take $200 out as their payment. Then they're told to spend $100 at Walmart. Keeping up with the facade of a mystery shopper, they're supposed to evaluate the store. After that, they're to wire the rest of the money Western Union to another shopper in another state. The catch? According to police, the money orders they used are fakes.

"Oftentimes, they're photocopies of legitimate money orders that had already been cashed. Once you go to your bank and cash these money grams, within a day or two, the bank is going to determine that they are no good and then the bank will take the money back out of your account and you'll be out the total amount," Lieutenant Sikes explained.

Investigators are trying to find out who is behind the scam. So far, they've traced the money orders to a company in Salt Lake City, an address in Akron, Ohio, and a company in Ontario, Canada- all loose ends so far.

"They're very legitimate-looking and that's a big concern to us. In these tough economic times, you're going to see more and more of these scams. I just think everybody out there needs to realize that they need to be very cautious and careful if they receive something similar," said Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr.

At this point, investigators say they don't think the money order company is involved in the scam.

They've also ruled out the company in Canada where the billing number on the shipping material goes back to since it turns out to be a cell phone repair company.

If you have received anything like this, officials in the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office encourage you to call them first at 706-653-4225. Ask for investigations.

Officials tell WTVM local banks have seen this scam. At CB&T, they say a large number of these bad money orders came through and were cashed in December.

Authorities are encouraging folks to remember the saying, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

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