Ark. at Center of Forged Check Scam

August 17, 2005

Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe’s office announced it is among the state and federal agencies investigating an international scam involving forged copies of State of Arkansas checks.

Operating from Turkey and possibly Latvia, the scam artists send out counterfeit checks, asking the people they target to cash them and wire most of the money to Europe, while hoping to receive the money before it is discovered that the checks are fake.

The con artists appear to be targeting job hunters posting resumes online. Soon after a consumer posts a resume, he or she receives an e-mail from someone claiming to represent “Void Computers Inc.” The job seeker is welcomed as a new employee of the company, and is told that the company needs help cashing checks from one of its “clients”, the State of Arkansas. Checks are then sent in the target’s name, with instructions that the checks be cashed and the money wired to an address in Latvia, minus a 10 percent fee the consumer may keep.

About 10 days later, the consumer receives two counterfeit State of Arkansas checks mailed from Turkey totaling $5,200, with the consumer’s own name and address printed on them. The consumer is encouraged to avoid banks, and instead go to a check-casher, liquor store, or other similar business. Some consumers have cashed the checks; other consumers and business owners have grown suspicious and contacted the State Auditor’s Office.

State Auditor Jim Wood says that although all the checks have been altered, they all bear the same Warrant Number, 05I-0614300, meaning they were all copied from one legitimate State of Arkansas check. That check was an income-tax-refund warrant mailed to California.

State Treasurer Gus Wingfield says that while some checks have been redeemed in other states, they are not honored when they reach Arkansas. The state has not lost any money during the course of this scam.

“These scam artists are using Arkansas’ name to commit their crime,” Attorney General Beebe said. “Our state agencies will continue to investigate and trace these checks to put a stop to this activity.”

Investigators in the Attorney General’s Office are also consulting with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office and the FBI.

Reports of the forged checks have come from Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

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