The Fort Bragg Police Department is warning local businesses of a “new nationwide online threat” that at least two Mendocino County businesses have been victimized by.
According to the FBPD, it has received at least two reports of a “highly sophisticated payroll check fraud operation” in the past two months affecting a local business and a non-profit organization.
The scam reportedly began with “employees of a business or organization releasing their online bank account information in order receive payments from fraudulent organizations,” as the “criminal organization convinces the victim that the funds must either be electronically deposited or deposited through a mobile phone deposit program.”
The deposits in these cases are actually “fraudulent payroll checks from other victimized businesses or organizations.” While depositing the checks of previous victims into new victims’ accounts, the suspects “also obtain scanned payroll checks from the current victim’s online bank account, (allowing them to) reproduce those scanned checks” for the next victim.
The FBPD notes that, “once the fraudulent checks are identified by the victimized business or organization, the original victim who accepted the deposits is forced to repay all of the fraudulent deposits while also losing any funds they returned to the criminal organization.”
Since the suspects are often located outside of the United States, making such crimes “extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute, employers are encouraged to educate their employees about this online scam, and to remain extra vigilant in accounting procedures and reviewing payroll withdrawals.
Any questions regarding these investigations may be directed to Officer O’Neal at (707) 961-2800 ext. 167 or at email@example.com.