In another twist on an old scam, a New York woman was introduced to Placer County this week when she found herself the target of con artists.
Osnat Edrich immediately knew something was amiss Tuesday when she received a check for $2,980 purporting to be from the county of Placer and bearing the address 2980 Richardson Drive, in the county government center in Auburn.
Edrich said she had never heard of Placer County or Auburn and had no idea why she would receive such a payment, until she received an email announcing her "first official assignment" and directing her to "get it done ASAP."
Edrich said she had answered a Craigslist ad for opportunities to work at home. She was to cash the check, keep a portion and forward the remainder according to her "employer's" instructions.
Instead, Edrich said, she called Placer County officials.
"It's a typical Nigerian scam," said Placer County Sheriff's Detective Jim Hudson. "It developed out of Nigeria and is sometimes fronted out of Canada or the UK."
Work-at-home job ads often are part of the scam. Victims typically are sent check, told to cash it, keep 10 percent and forward the remainder. Two weeks to a month later, the check comes back as counterfeit and the money is taken out of the victim's account.
The checks usually are written on former corporate account numbers. In Edrich's case, it was an old Placer County account that is no longer in use, Hudson said.
"It's a never-ending scam that has gone on for years," he said.
Although he receives two or three such cases a month, Hudson said he doesn't investigate them, because they would eventually lead him overseas.
To combat the scam, he said, "We've had to rely on public education."
Placer County has taken steps to avoid losses by going to a "positive pay" system, in which the county informs its bank of every check it issues.
Even if a victim is able to cash a check fraudulently written on a county account, "it would never clear our bank," Hudson said.