SARANAC LAKE — A Saranac Lake woman is facing grand-larceny charges after cashing what police say was a fraudulent check from an online scam.
Saranac Lake Village Police arrested Allison S. Koller on Thursday for cashing the check through her local bank account last April.
The check was in excess of $1,000, police said.
“It was a fraudulent check sent to her through the mail,” arresting officer Casey Reardon said Thursday.
“It was a check sent after someone had contacted her over the Internet. It’s real common via Craigslist and other Internet sites that sometimes look to add cash for shipping.
"People get these checks in the mail — they are signed and everything.
"But the game they play is based on the delay in the time it takes a bank to figure out the check is fraudulent,” Reardon said.
“The bank the check is drawn from will come back and say the account is fraudulent. But, by then, the person has sent cash back to the person who sent them the (fake) check.”
Koller is liable for the cost of the bogus check, police said.
An investigation is continuing into whether Koller knew she was being scammed, police said.
Oftentimes, the scammers who sent the check are from far away and ask the person cashing it to send them some portion of the proceeds, either by wire or mail.
Police said Koller did not admit to sending cash to the check-writer.
Police did not reveal the source of the scam, but Koller, 40, was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny, a felony.
Koller could not be reached by telephone. An old phone number in her name now belongs to a different local resident, and her former cell-phone number is disconnected.
Reardon said fake-check scams are common.
“These fraudulent deals are generated through via some type of online chatting. They use all types or means: email, Facebook, Craigslist, responses to Craigslist, Ebay. It’s quite obvious to most people. You would know something isn’t quite right.”
Reardon said the investigation is still ongoing and that they are waiting for more bank records.
Koller turned herself at the Saranac Lake Police Department at noon Thursday after being contacted by police.
She was given an appearance ticket and released on her own recognizance.
She is due in Saranac Lake Village Court on Feb. 4.
Email Kim Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Consumer League maintains a website to report fraud at www.fraud.org. The website also has some good tips to help people spot online check-cashing scams. The Consumer League website warns: "If someone you don't know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, beware. It's a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars." Tips from the Consumer League also include:
• A scam could start with someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work at home, give you an "advance" on a sweepstakes you've supposedly won.
• Fake-check scammers hunt for victims. They scan newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them.
• The scammers often say it's too difficult and complicated to send you the money directly from their (foreign) country, so they'll arrange for someone in the United States to send you a check.
• They tell you to wire money to them after you've deposited the check. You deposit the checks and then wire them the money minus your "pay." Or they may send you a check for more than your pay "by mistake" and ask you to wire them the excess.
• The checks are fake, but they look real. In fact, they look so real that even bank tellers may be fooled. Some are phony cashier's checks; others look like they're from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has created the checks without their knowledge.