Salted with Sharks

What’s Going Around: Rent Scammers

In Community Alert, Crime, Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Village Homes on April 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Rental Scammers Cashiers Check

By Kimm X Jayne

For any of you who list a property on HomeAway.com or VRBO, be aware of this scam going around. Someone reserves your place and sends a cashier’s check, but before you get the check, he or she “realizes” they overpaid you and part of that money should have gone to their “travel agent” (or any other person). They ask you if, once you cash it, you could please forward the overpayment part to that person. The unsuspecting landlord (in this case, us!) thinks a cashier’s check is like cash and goes to cash it, and just happens to mention to the teller the story. The teller immediately says they get these types of checks about once a week and that they are cashed, and then 6-8 weeks later when the bank figures out they are bad, they recover the amount deposited by debiting your account for that same amount. By then the unsuspecting landlord has already sent a check or Moneygram to the supposed third party, and that check has cleared.

If my husband hadn’t happened to describe the situation to our bank teller, we would have been out about $1,100 cash. So, says the bank: Never accept an overpayment and then disburse your own funds. This sort of scenario is a sure sign of fraud and/or money laundering.

The following two emails show the scammers’ tactics.

EMAIL 1
Hello, Thanks for the updated information. We are okay with the accommodation and cost . We would also like to confirm the reservation on the following information: Mrs Kathrine Yelovikov8/10 Banderi S. Vul. Street, Lviv 79031 ,Ukraine, Also , due to the unsecured use of credit card online or on the phone, I have arrange for payment inform of check Please do forward me the following details for payment FULL NAME BILLING ADDRESS CONTACT TELEPHONE NUMBER Hope to hear from you soon Best Regards Kathrine Yelovikov

EMAIL 2
Good day, I am sorry for all the delay in payment. There was a mix up in the payment sent to you ,I was supposed to receive two separate payment one for you and the other for our traveling expenses but the whole payment was issued on a single one check in your name and sent. I tried to correct this but it was in vain as i was ask to resolve the problem myself. It would have to go through a very long process to change this error. Please I don’t know what to do. I have been advised to contact you since this check was issued in your name , so you should be able to deposit the check into your account. As soon as you have the check deposited into your account you are to deduct your rent and transfer the balance to my agent or to us . Please do let me know how you can help on this issue. Thanks

I figured it would be worth it to alert those who have rentals about our near-miss. If your bank even accepts the cashier’s check, they will reverse it 6 to 8 weeks later when they discover it’s counterfeit. If a potential renter overpays and asks you to forward the money to someone else, something fishy’s going on—no matter how innocent the “mistake” may look. Here’s to a great, scam-free summer!

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