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CBP Seizes More Than $30M in Counterfeit Checks, Money Orders in Cincinnati

Release Date: 
March 10, 2011

Cincinnati - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, working at the Cincinnati DHL facility, seized over $30 million dollars in counterfeit checks and money orders since the beginning of 2011 in an effort to stop illegal international financial scams designed to steal money from U.S. citizens.

The majority of recent seized counterfeit checks and money orders originate in West Africa. CBP officers, stationed at express consignment facilities throughout the United States, process and examine all parcels arriving from foreign points of origin. The fake checks come into this country addressed to unsuspecting recipients. These innocent victims think they will receive free money, but end up with disastrous results.

"Remember if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is," said David J. Murphy, CBP director of field operations in Chicago. "The interception of these counterfeit checks and money orders is another example and excellent illustration of the different ways that CBP endeavors to protect the people of this country, in this case, taking advantage of the elderly and capitalizing on the current economic crisis to victimize the public and potentially cause the financial ruin of its victims. CBP is diligently on the lookout to prevent illegal activity and illegal scams from harming our community."

Counterfeit checks and money orders are utilized in many different types of swindling operations including the following common foreign lottery and overpayment scams:

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.

Overpayment Scam:

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 the Federal Trade Commission Website or contact the Immigration and Customs Enforcement tipline at 1-866-347-2423. (Federal Trade Commission)

CBP officers and agriculture specialists are stationed at the express consignment facilities located throughout the country. CBP constantly conducts enforcement operations on international parcels and on the lookout for any type of contraband or prohibited items being shipped to the U.S.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017