Being a fraudster must be a good business, because the complaints are proliferating.
Judicial agents said Wednesday that even the Nicoya area has been the scene of at least 10 frauds this year.
Emails from expats have shown that they are not immune to crooks even if they take precautions.
One alert from the Nicoya office of the Judicial Investigating Organization involves Internet sales.
Agents said that the fraud works like this:
A seller posts an ad and then is contacted by someone who purports to be a buyer. The supposed buyer agrees on a price and then makes a deposit into the seller’s bank account. The seller thinks that the transaction is valid and delivers the advertised goods, usually through a third party.
Then a day or two later, the seller’s bank account shows that the payment has been reversed because the check the supposed buyer used did not clear.
One expat from the Nicoya area said last week that he was a victim of such a scam. He received a notice of a deposit to his account and did not realize that the payment was by check. He then loaded some $2,000 worth of tools on a bus for delivery to San José.
He was outraged because he said the deposit slip looked like the fake buyer had deposited cash.
This fraud is a variation on the one in common use in the metro area. In that fraud the crook agrees to purchase an item and upon delivery there is confusion over payment. In one case outside a hospital, a crook told a seller by telephone that he was a physician in the middle of an operation and said the item could be given to a nearby taxi driver.
The use of a taxi driver or a messenger as an innocent third party is typical. The taxi driver or messenger delivers the goods to a destination provided by the crook, and when the seller goes looking for the promised payment, the fraud becomes clear.
Of course some of the frauds are outright thefts. In some cases a crook responds to a vehicle ad and asks to take the car for a test ride. Bye bye car. If the owner insists on going along on the test ride, the theft may turn into a robbery as the crook pulls a gun and orders the owner from the car.
Another fraud making the round in the Nicoya area involves a telephone call from someone identifying him or herself as a television show host. The caller says the victim has won a substantial amount of money but that first a deposit must be made into some bank account. This is a version of the advance fee scam.
Agents also said there have been reports of crooks claiming there are bonds or a promissory note at a local bank. To retrieve the document, the victim has to leave something of value with the crook. The bond or note is false, and the crook is gone with the goods that were left as security.
This is an old scam that usually involved the finding of a purse full of money. The use of a bank and documents of credit is a modern variation.
Investigators have said in the past that a lot of these scams are directed by inmates in the country’s prisons. They have a lot of time on their hands and larceny in their hearts.
Investigators do not have a lot of time on their hands, and fraud cases like this are very low priority.