Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Nov. 11, 2002
Former local man featured on CBS as victim of Nigerian scam
By Julie Yurek
They were only trying to sell a car, but now Jeff and Shawn Mosch are international scam victims.
The Mosches appeared on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rathers Nov. 1 to tell their story.
Jeff is a former Waverly resident and graduated from Howard Lake-Waverly in 1988. The family lives in Bloomington.
A cashier's check they received from Nigeria for the purchase of their car was counterfeit, and now the Mosches are being held responsible for the money.
They feel their bank, Twin Cities Federal (TCF), did not do its job in protecting them. After the scam was found out, the Mosches' bank told them that if they were so concerned about the check, they should have personally called the other bank to verify, Shawn said. "I thought that's what banks did."
They have since gotten calls from other scam victims in other states, Shawn said.
The Mosches compared notes with others who had striking similarities.
They discovered that the mailing addresses from where the cashier's check came from were almost identical, only the house numbers were different, she said.
The Mosches and the caller then researched the tracking number on the Fed Ex package the check came in. They found that the number led to the same town in Great Britain. Also, the addresses of were to wire the money were similar, she said.
Another call they received was from a man whose parents had seen the TV program. The man was getting ready to wire money the next day, and when he checked his tracking number, it also goes to Great Britain, she said.
"We think it's the same ring of people," Shawn said.
The Mosches have formed an Internet support group for victims of scams. The site is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scamsupportgroup.
"Since it's happened to so many of us, maybe we can find a way to join together to stop it," Shawn said.
Shawn talked with a Secret Service agent, and asked if he thought the money was ending up in terrorists hands. He couldn't confirm it, but he didn't dismiss it either, she said.
"Something has to be done," she said. "For all we know, we just helped fund terrorists."
The check arrived
The Mosches were selling Jeff's 1961 Buick and had placed an ad on the Internet with an asking price of $1,600. Adebisi Julius of Lagos, Nigeria contacted them, stating that he was a car dealer and was interested in buying the car, Shawn said.
A friend in America owed him money, so Julius wanted the friend to send the Mosches a cashier's check directly. The Mosches would then deduct the price of the car from $8,800, which is what Julius' friend owed, Shawn said.
The Mosches were to send the remaining balance via Western Union so that Julius could arrange transportation for the vehicle once the check cleared, she said.
The friend's name was Victor Tom of Warrington, Pa.
The Mosches didn't really expect a check, or that if they did receive one, they figured it would not clear when they brought it to the bank and that would be the end of it, Shawn said.
They received a cashier's check from Tom Oct. 7. in the amount of $8,800, Shawn said. The check had a Bank of America logo on it.
Shawn deposited the check into their savings account at TCF in Bloomington Oct. 8.
When she was at the bank, Shawn asked the cashier how long it would take until the check cleared. The reply was "24 hours," Shawn said.
Shawn wanted to make certain the cashier understood her question. She rephrased the question, asking "I need to know not just when the funds would show up in our account, but when we can be sure that it is a good check, that it has cleared, and that it is real money that we can touch or use. I don't want to get a charge or have this come back and bite us in the butt."
"Tomorrow afternoon. No problems," the teller replied.
The Mosches were later able to confirm from a different TCF employee that the wait is 24 hours.
The Mosches decided to wait an extra day just to be sure it was a good check, before returning to the bank to withdraw $7,200, Shawn said
The money was wired Oct. 10 and picked up Oct. 11, she said.
Five days later on Oct. 16, TCF contacted the Mosches to inform them the check was counterfeit and that the back was deducting $8,800 from their savings account, Shawn said.
They are now responsible for paying back what their savings didn't cover, $5,000.
Shawn has been applying for a part-time job so they can pay TCF back, she said.
"Their clerk told me that it would clear after 24 hours. If I had known that it might come back at me, I would have waited longer," she said. "Why are we responsible because their employee gave me incorrect information?"
The Mosches have since contacted the police, a lawyer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the attorney general.
They were also on the radio station 93X Wednesday morning to warn others.
The Mosches called Warrington police to ask about Tom. They were told that the address was a complete fake, she said.
Shawn also notified the owner of the web site so he could warn other sellers. One of the victims she talked to also had a vehicle for sale on the same web site, she said.
"I know the whole deal sounded weird from the get go, but we said if the check clears, then what the heck, who cares how this guy wants to pay for it," Shawn said. "And that is why I made sure I said that I needed to know when the check would be cleared and we would be sure that the check was good."
"Isn't that their job, to inform their customers and to help ensure our financial safety?" she asked.
The TCF bank manager told Shawn "too bad" and that if she was worried about it clearing, she should have been more careful, Shawn said.
She also told Shawn that she should have called the Bank of America that the check was issued from to verify the account number and that money was in the account, Shawn said.
"I guess I thought that is what a bank is supposed to do during the time they tell you that you have to wait," she said.
TCF won't give the check to authorities to aid investigation until the Mosches have paid the $5,000, Shawn said.
"If they would have said that we needed to wait 10 days, we would have," she said.
As for the car, it's still for sale, she said.
Howard Lake-Waverly Herald & Winsted-Lester Prairie