Postal Inspectors Fighting Fake Check Fraud

MIRAMAR, Fla. -- The United States Postal Inspector Service is waging a cyberwar against a growing breed of con artists who are using the Interent to rip off Americans.

On Thursday, Miami's postal inspector general displayed thousands of bogus checks confiscated in the mail this year.

Davie resident Michael Copolla said a person in the United Kingdom is trying to swindle him right now. Copolla recently advertised a dining room set for sale on a classified advertising Web site. He said a man in England sent him a check for five times the amount he was asking, then called to say he accidentally sent the wrong amount. Copolla said he was told to cash the check, keep the money for the furniture and send back the rest.

"He keeps calling me telling me to send the money, but there's no doubt in my mind that his check is going to bounce," Copolla told Local 10's Roger Lohse.

Investigators for the U.S. Postal Inspector Service have arrested 77 people as part of a global fraud crackdown, which has intercepted more than $2.1 billion in counterfeit checks bound for the United States since January. The eight-month investigation involved schemes in Nigeria, the Netherlands, England and Canada. It has stopped more than 500,000 fake checks from being mailed to U.S. citizens.

The problem has become so rampant that the U.S. Postal Service has created a new Web site to educate the public on check fraud.

Postal inspectors said the Internet has become a haven for cyber crooks to work their scams.

"In the last 20 something years we have that doubled-edged sword called technology where we've now gone into hyper mode, they can reach out and touch more people quicker," said Henry Gutierrez, Miami's U.S. postal inspector general.

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