Counterfeit notes are just one of a number of scams that have hit the island in recent weeks. *Photo by James Whittaker
Counterfeit notes are just one of a number of scams that have hit the island in recent weeks. *Photo by James Whittaker

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23: An increasing number of Bermudians are falling prey to Internet con-artists amid the pressures of the economic downturn, police have warned.

In one recent scam up to 40 islanders responded to a “work from home” advertisement for a “bookkeeping job”. The job involves processing travellers cheques for a company calling itself Better Foods.

Employees are sent $2,000 worth of travellers cheques in the mail. They are asked to bank the cheques and deposit $1,500 into the company account. They get to keep a $500-commission.

Forgery

Sergant Paul Ridley said: “The bank will clear them in good faith but when they come to reclaim them they find it is a forgery and the money is deducted from your account. By that time you have already forwarded on the $1,500.

“There’s someone sitting in a room somewhere overseas sending out millions of these emails hoping someone will respond.”

The job advert was placed on a local website and as many as 40 people have responded so far.

The traveller’s cheques — American Express forgeries — are more sophisticated than the counterfeit currency found in Bermuda. But police say they still lack security features and even contain information on how to spot a forgery printed on the back.

In many of the cases Bermuda Customs officers intercepted the packages en-route to Bermuda and identified the forgeries before they reached their destination. But in several instances local victims did receive them and lost money through the scam.

Inspector Grant Tomkins warned: “There has been a definite increase in this type of thing since the downturn.

“People are becoming more desperate and more willing to take a chance on a work from home scam like this.

“Unfortunately they are falling for this at a time when they can least afford to lose the money.”

He added: “The bottom line is to be suspicious anytime someone asks for your personal information.

“When you shop on-line make sure you know who you are dealing with and that the company is reputable.

“The Internet has in so many ways made our lives easier, but unfortunately it has also created previously unimaginable opportunities for the fraudster.”

DS Ridley warned that new scams were coming online every day and urged people to be careful.

“If something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.”