MOVIE MONEY SCAM: Woman uses online app to sell iPhone, gets counterfeit bills in return

- Montgomery County police are warning people about a scam that involves con artists swindling victims by using fake currency that is used in movie productions.

Many people use online apps such as OfferUp and letgo to connect people to buy and sell products. But police say an 18-year-old woman was the victim of this “movie money” scam while trying to sell a cell phone.

Hannah Buehlery said she tried to sell her old iPhone 6 her father bought for her a few years ago. She met a person who identified himself as “Xavier” on the letgo app and he agreed to buy the cell phone for $450.

They agreed to meet up at the Milestone Shopping Center in Germantown where he gave her a bank envelope that contained what she believed was five $100 bills. In exchange, she gave him the iPhone and $50 cash for the change in the transaction.

Buehlery went to the bank to the deposit the money, but it was rejected because the bills were found to be counterfeit. She discovered she was scammed because the bills had the words, “For Motion Picture Use Only” on the front of the bills and “For Cinematic Use Only” on the back of them. She then reported the incident to police.

“My heart just dropped,” Buehlery said. “I was so upset. It was definitely a blackout to the heart. I’m out $50, my iPhone and I don’t even get $500. It’s very upsetting.”

Police say the suspect is described as a tall and thin 15- to 16-year-old African American male.

Anyone with information is asked to call Montgomery County police’s 5th District Investigative Section at 240-773-6237 or Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Montgomery County police say they have set up designated Exchange Zones at their police district station lobbies and parking lots to help people complete online transactions. For more information about these Exchange Zones, go to: http://www.mymcpnews.com/2017/02/07/mcp-designates-exchange-zones-for-online-transactions/

Police also recommend these safety tips when selling or purchasing items from an unknown person:

- Always meet the buyer or seller at an exchange zone that is well populated, well lit, and preferably at a designated police exchange zone.
- Tell a friend or family member where you’re going to meet someone and when possible, take a friend with you.
- Inform the buyer/seller that you will not be alone.
- Do not invite strangers into your home.
- Never give out any personal or financial information.
- When dealing with large sums of cash, don’t be afraid to tell the buyer that you will want to check the bills for authenticity.
- It is OK to show a buyer that you have an item, but do not surrender it until you have checked the validity of the currency.
- Look for the denomination specific security features. Each bill has a specific watermark and security thread.
- Trust your instincts – if it sounds like a scam or too good to be true, it probably is.

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