Canadian scam hitting city

Residents losing money when asked to cash fraudulent checks

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— An elderly Steamboat Springs woman was the victim of a scam that police worry also may have targeted other area residents.

Steamboat Springs police Det. Ross Kelly said the scam, which resembles a popular Canadian lottery fraud, involves an out-of-town company that uses local residents to perform customer service evaluations.

After being "hired" by the company, it will send the local "employee" a fraudulent check for a large sum of money. The employee is instructed to cash the check at his or her bank. After cashing the check, the employee is then given a "job" to send a money order or money gram from a local business to the original company, Kelly said.

Residents end up losing money in the scams because after the bank realizes the check is fraudulent, the employee already has sent his or her money - in the form of a money order - back to the company.

"The problem is that these people don't realize they're out the money. They're the victim because the check they received was not legitimate, but they cashed it anyway," he said.

An advertisement for the job position began running in the Craig Daily Press and Steamboat Today on Aug. 19. The ads also ran in the Hayden Valley Press, Steamboat Pilot & Today and on steamboatpilot.com.

The ad says it is hiring customer service evaluators and offers paid training, flexible hours and different promotions in the area. The contact number appears to be a Canadian telephone number, though the ad originally was placed by a woman with a California address.

The fraud is reminiscent of a popular international scam called the Canadian lottery. In those scams, foreign companies will send notices to people saying they won a large sum of money and will then ask for a check to pay the lottery's taxes before sending the prize money, which is never sent.

The difference in this scam is that residents think they are employees for the company.

"It appeals to those who enjoy the whole 'work at home' thing. We've been seeing these kind of scams across the nation recently because the people behind these scams are incredibly bright and getting more inventive," Kelly said.

Kelly said residents who applied to the ad or are working for the company should call the police department at 879-4345.

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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