Puppy owner thwarts money-order scheme | VailDaily.com

Puppy owner thwarts money-order scheme

Bobby Magill

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Becoming a victim of an international money-order scam is the last thing Brian Diaz said he expected when he tried to sell his puppies in the Glenwood Springs Post Independents classifieds section. But the Rifle resident figured out the scheme before he became a victim. One night in January, Diaz received a phone call from a relay service for the hearing impaired. The person making the call asked him for information about the puppies the same information that was contained in Diazs ad, which appeared on the newspapers Web site. While I was on the call relay, a Sprint representative broke in and told me that this could be a fraudulent call and asked if I wanted to continue, Diaz wrote in an e-mail to the Post Independent classifieds department, used here with his permission. I said yes.The person asked him to e-mail details about the puppies once again. I asked this person where they lived, Diaz said. They said New York. I e-mailed the person to see what info they wanted.The person, who called himself Cole Collins, replied with an e-mail in garbled English outlining an elaborate scam. Collins offered to pay Diaz with a certified money order and said he would send a representative of a special shipping company to pick up the puppies. Collins said he would send Diaz an overdraft money order to cover shipping costs. The extra money was to be wired to London via Western Union. Where the puppies would have gone is anybodys guess. Worse, said Diaz, soon the money order is bad, and I am out of the money that I sent them. Its just scary to know that they tried to do this with a local newspaper ad.A similar case was reported last year to the Post Independent classifieds department from a person in Aspen who was selling a musical instrument. The scam artist contacted the person via a call-relay service and sent a Western Union money order for $3,000 more than the price of the instrument. The money order was bad, but nobody came to pick up the instrument. Worse, the person said, even though the bank said the money order was good, they wouldnt stand by their word when the money order later turned up counterfeit, said the person, who wished to remain anonymous in this story because of potential litigation.The check overpayment scam is not anything new, said Sherry Johnson, spokesperson for Greenwood Village-based Western Union. Money should be transferred only between people who know each other, she said. She cautioned, however, that when a money order is accepted by a bank, it doesnt mean the money order will clear. Before money or goods are sent to someone you dont know, she said, be certain the money order is good and the funds have cleared the bank, a process that can sometimes take a month. Many scams have used U.S. Postal Service-issued money orders, but postal inspectors have begun to make arrests, helping to reduce the number of reported scams. Denver-based postal inspector Andrew Rivas said the scams vary widely and are nothing new.Most of the scams, Rivas said, involve a scam artist sending a money order for an amount far greater than the value of the item they claim to want to purchase. That should set off red flags, he said. Vail, Colorado

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