The United States Postal Inspection Service has issued a notice of a wide-spread scam involving counterfeit money orders. Thomson Postmaster Paula Fuller said the scam has reached McDuffie County.
"It's actually going on all over the nation, but it has become rampant in the local area in Thomson just recently. ...This is unbelievable how widespread it is now. They (counterfeit money orders) are coming in through the internet, through the mail, through Fed Ex and through UPS," she said.
In their notice, the Postal Inspection Service states that con artists are contacting people via an internet chat room, email, or through an online purchase.
The con artists pose as students, tourists, or overseas military personnel and ask people to receive and cash postal money orders, keep a percentage of the money and return the balance to them.
Ms. Fuller said the Thomson post office received a counterfeit money order on May 19, May 22 and June 27.
She said at first, the money orders were coming from Nigeria, but she has personal suspicions there are copy-cats now.
Investigator Scott Whittle of the Thomson Police Department said he is looking into the situation in Thomson. Lt. Whittle said some money orders also were cashed at a local liquor store recently. He said the counterfeit orders are a method of payment to individuals who do work-at-home jobs such as stuffing envelopes or packing boxes.
"I don't know a whole lot about them, I just know they are bogus, and they are through the U.S. Postal Service. I'm looking into it, I'm trying to find them, but I don't have a whole lot to go on," he said.
Lt. Whittle said he does not want to publicize how to identify counterfeits, because that will aid the people who are making them. The money orders can only be cashed at limited locations.
Business owners who desire more information about the money orders may call Ms. Fuller at 706-595-2441.
Lt. Whittle warns people to take heed when taking work-at-home job offers. The Postal Inspection Service warns consumers to be skeptical of anyone who asks that money be wired to overseas bank accounts or to cash money orders on their behalf; or who pays for purchases with a greater amount than the price and requests the excess funds be wired back.