Fake-CU Newspaper Scam Returns, But No One Victimized

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Authoritiessaid the fake credit union scam that some had hoped was extinguished two months ago with the arrest of two Canadians has returned here with a new set of characters.

The state Division of Banking and Financial Institutions issued a cease-and-desist order last week against four individuals, believed to be Canadian, after they sought to place an ad in the Great Falls Tribune for credit unions purporting to operate out of a Kalispell, Mont. address.

"They (representatives from the newspaper) called us and we sent a detective to Kalispell who determined it was a fictitious address," said Annie Goodwin, commissioner of banking for the state.

The newspaper was apparently made aware of the potential scam because of a letter that NCUA and the American Newspaper Association sent to more than 7,000 publishers and advertising department heads warning them about such ads.

In a scam similar to the one Canadian authorities thought was cracked two months ago, the individuals were soliciting loans through phony credit unions called United Savings CU, Global CU and Sunrise Family CU. Goodwin said they believe the individuals, identified as Cassandra Henry, Sarah Johnson, Kevin Walters and Cheryl Brewton, are operating out of Canada because they use Canadian e-mail addresses and toll-free phone numbers from Canada.

Similarities In Scam

The cease-and-desist orders were sent to two Kalispell addresses listed on the advertisements but were returned because they were phony addresses, Goodwin said.

The scam is similar to one that spread through more than 20 states over 18 months in which two Toronto-area residents used bogus credit union names, such as Heartland CU, Century CU, First Rate CU, Zurich CU, and Continental CU, sometimes the same names as legitimate credit unions, to solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting American victims. The two suspects, brothers Leslie Card and Kevin Card, were convicted of fraud charges in Ontario, but authorities were convinced it would not end such schemes.

Goodwin said she contacted American credit unions in North Dakota, Michigan and California with the same names being used by the new perpetrators to make sure they were not involved in the latest solicitations.

Authorities believe they may have caught the scamsters before they were able to victimize anyone, at least in Montana. "So far, we have not heard of any money being bilked form Montana consumers," said Goodwin.

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