Conference addresses check fraud investigation

ST. LOUIS - During an eight-month investigation, the United States Postal Service intercepted $2.1 billion in counterfeit checks intended for American consumers.

To address this investigation and its results, the United States Postal Inspection Service held a news conference Wednesday. This investigation marks the most money in counterfeit checks intercepted by the USPS.

The effort by the USPS involved investigating check fraud coming from Nigeria, the Netherlands, England and Canada. Investigations in these countries led to stopping more than 540,000 checks from being mailed to Americans and the arrest of 77 people.

Postal inspector Don Washington, who works out of St. Louis, recently returned from 34 days of working with the Nigerian government in the worldwide investigation of counterfeit checking scams.

"I think the Nigerian government has recognized some of the problems in their country," Washington said.

Postal inspector Dan Taylor spoke about the frequency of check fraud that originates overseas and targets American consumers. He said more than 18 percent of Americans either fall victim to check fraud personally or through their family. In the St. Louis area, the two most frequent check fraud schemes are a fake foreign lottery or a job processing checks for a foreign company.

"There are victims worldwide, but United States citizens are often targeted because United States' citizens have money to part with," Taylor said.

Taylor and Washington included a video testimonial that focused on the need to avoid the shame and guilt people often feel after being victimized by check fraud in their presentation. The video included a personal testimonial of a woman who lost her sister to suicide after her sister had lost $40,000 by falling for a false international lottery.

Miss Missouri 2007 Lindsay Casmaer spoke at the conference about a friend who fell victim to check fraud during college. Casmaer said her friend was trying to make money for a trip to Europe. Although she was abroad, Casmaer's friend realized her bank account had been entirely emptied.

"The bank was kind enough to return her money, but it was a long process and one that doesn't occur very often," Casmaer said. "She was lucky."

Although check fraud continues, both Casmaer and Taylor said this campaign will help decrease check fraud in the United States.

"I think counterfeit checks will continue, but it's an avoidable crime of what to look for," Taylor said.

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