Yet another scam has surfaced in Sweetwater County; one that involves local residents in international fraud and shipping stolen property.
Sheriff Mike Lowell said the swindle is called the “PayPal Reshipping Scam” or, simply, the “Reshipping Scam.” The goal of the swindlers is to use locals to move stolen goods overseas.
Criminals in different parts of the country begin by obtaining valuable items such as laptops and iPads posted for sale on Internet sites like eBay or Craigslist using bogus PayPal accounts. The victims selling the items receive a fake email, purportedly from PayPal, informing them that payment has been made, and they ship the item to the “buyer;” only later do they realize that the payment was fraudulent.
The “buyer” already has connections outside the country, usually in Nigeria, to dispose of the stolen goods, but wishes to insulate himself from the shipping process to lessen the chances of being caught. He needs someone to ship the items for him, and he (or she) often finds them through Internet dating websites.
Swindlers involved in this version of the Reshipping Scam establish relationships with men or women on dating websites. At some point during the online relationship, they solicit the person to accept packages – the items they purchased illegally online – with instructions to ship them to particular addresses overseas; once again, most often to Nigeria. (One excuse often provided is that they are themselves overseas and unable to facilitate the shipping.)
The Reshipping Scam is also used in money laundering and sending cash out of the country illicitly. In 2014, Sheriff’s Office detectives investigated a case involving a teddy bear and a Playstation game system being shipped under suspicious circumstances from Rock Springs to Nigeria. Search warrants were obtained, and it turned out that $33,000 in cash had been concealed inside the game and the bear.
The case and the funds were turned over to the Department of Homeland Security. The shipper, Paula Quinton of Rock Springs, pleaded guilty in 2015 to federal charges of mail fraud. Placed on probation, Quinton was recently rearrested when she failed to appear for a May 4 hearing. During the initial investigation, she told investigators she had received the money from an individual in New York, and her plan was to send the money to a man in Nigeria whom she’d met online and was dating.
Reshipping Scams are also pitched by con artists as “work from home opportunities.” People are cold-contacted or respond to ads or emails about reshipping packages and – wittingly or unwittingly – involve themselves in a wide range of potential criminal charges. In addition, as “employees,” they often provide their birthdates, Social Security numbers, and other personal information that leaves them vulnerable to identity theft.
Authorities say the best bet is to avoid becoming involved in reshipping altogether. If you didn’t become aware you were involved in a scam until packages started arriving, refuse delivery and contact your Postmaster.
If you sell an item on a service such as eBay and use PayPal, don’t automatically accept an email from a “buyer” as proof of payment; you may be dealing with a crook. Instead, just log into our PayPal account and confirm that a genuine payment has in fact been made before shipping your item.
Click here to view a short video from PayPal about spotting suspicious emails involving PayPal transactions.
In addition, the PayPal website at https://www.paypal.com is also an excellent source for information on protecting yourself from fraud.