FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - The U.S. Department of Customs and Border protection says it's intercepted $30 million of fake checks at the DHL facility at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport so far this year.
That's a rate of more than 3 million dollars a week.
This is part of an effort to stop illegal international financial scams designed to steal money from United States citizens.
CBP says the majority of recent seized counterfeit checks and money orders originate in West Africa.
DHL withdrew from the U.S. domestic market a couple of years ago, but still delivers parcels between the U.S. and other countries, and it has a major facility here. Customs has officers at such facilities, looking for contraband, and this is one of the items they look for.
The fake checks come from foreign countries addressed to people here, telling innocent victims that they have won free money, but the "free money" can bankrupt them.
"Remember if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is," said David J. Murphy, CBP Director of Field Operations in Chicago.
Here are examples from CBP on how a couple of these scams work:
Foreign Lottery Scam:
It's your lucky day! You have just won a foreign lottery! In this scam, a U.S. citizen is sent a cashier's check to cover the taxes and fees of a foreign lottery prize. In order to receive the winnings, they must deposit the check and wire the money to the sender to pay the taxes and fees. The recipient is given a guarantee that when the payment is received, the prize will be sent. There is just one catch. The check is no good. Even though it appears to be a legitimate cashier's check, if it is deposited, the bank would soon learn that the check was a fake. In the end, the money that was wired to pay the taxes and fees will never be recovered, plus the recipient must pay back the bank for the entire amount they received from the fake check.
A buyer responds to a classified ad or online auction and is offering to pay with a cashier's, personal, corporate check or money order. At the last minute, the so-called buyer (or the buyer's "agent") comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price and asks for the difference to be wired back to them after the check is deposited. Typically, the checks are counterfeit. When the check eventually bounces, the honest seller is liable for the entire amount and must pay back the bank. To be safe, don't accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the purchase price. If the buyer sends the incorrect amount, return the check. Don't send the merchandise.
To report a counterfeit check scam, call the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) and visit ftc.gov or contact the Immigration and Customs Enforcement tipline at 1-866-347-2423.