Scam of the day – May 31, 2017 – Summer vacation rental scams

Now that we have passed Memorial Day, the summer has unofficially begun and many people will be renting vacation homes.  Some people have already rented their vacation homes a long time ago, but many people will be renting a vacation home in the days and weeks ahead. There are many excellent websites  such as VRBO and Homeaway that offer wonderful vacation homes.  Many people will also go to Craigslist and other similar sites.  These websites can be very easy and efficient ways to locate a great vacation home.   Unfortunately, they are also a great way for scam artists to steal money from unwary people looking for a vacation home.  The scam usually starts with a listing that looks quite legitimate and there is a good reason for that.  The listing is often a real on line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information.  The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential renters.  The potential renters are sometimes told that the owner is out of the country and that there are many people interested in the property so if the tenant wants to be considered for renting it, the tenant has to wire money to the landlord somewhere outside of the country.  As I have warned you many times, wiring money is a scammer’s first choice because it is all but impossible to retrieve once you have found out that you have been scammed.  Too often, unwary potential tenants wire the money and never hear anything further from the scam landlord.  And as for the money, it is gone forever.

TIPS

There are a number of red flags to look for in vacation home rental scams.  First, as always, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true.  Also be wary of landlords who are out of the country.  Never send your payment by a wire transfer or a cashier’s check.  Use a credit card, PayPal or any other payment system with which you can retrieve your funds if the transaction is fraudulent.  It is usually best to deal with websites that specialize in vacation homes, but you must remember that they cannot possibly monitor every listing to ensure that it is legitimate.  A great and easy way to determine if the listing is a scam is to check out who really is the owner by going on line to the tax assessor’s office of the city or town where the property is located and look up who the real owner is.  If it doesn’t match the name of the person attempting to rent you the home, you should not go through with the rental.  Also Google the name of the owner with the word “scam” next to his or her name and see if anything comes up to make you concerned.

Scam of the day – September 9, 2014 – Nigerian gangs use Craigslist for scams

In a paper to be presented later this month at the IEEE eCrime Research Summit in Birmingham, Alabama researchers Damon McCoy and Jackie Jones of George Mason University will disclose how they uncovered a group of five Nigerian gangs, who with the cooperation of accomplices in the United States re using Craigslist advertisements to scam people selling goods on Craigslist.  The method used by these gangs is one that I have warned you about many times in the past.  It starts when the scammers answer a legitimate advertisement and then send what appears to be a certified check in excess of the amount owed for the purchase.  The scammer then asks that the goods be sent to an address in the United States and the money from the certified check in excess of the purchase price be wired by Western Union to a person designated by the scammer in the United States.  Of course, the check is a forgery, albeit an often excellent forgery.  Sometimes the victims think they are being prudent by waiting a few days for the funds to be deemed available by their bank without realizing that they are only receiving provisional credit for the funds represented by the check and that once the check bounces and determined to be a forgery, the amount of the check is removed from the victim’s account who now has lost not just the money wired to the scammer, but also the goods that they have already shipped.

TIPS

Craiglist can work well if you take proper precautions.  The primary rule if you are a seller is to never accept any payment other than cash in a face to face meeting at which the item is exchanged for the cash.  Phony certified checks in excess of the purchase amount is a common scam, however, you should never accept any check.  Banks will appear to clear a check after a few days and it will look like the funds have been deposited into your account, but you have only received temporary, provisional credit which, once the check proves to be counterfeit will be removed from your account.

Scam of the day – April 28, 2014 – Vacation home rental scams

With summer soon approaching, many people are making vacation plans.  Renting a home in a vacation destination is something that many people do.  There are many websites  such as VRBO and Homeaway that offer wonderful vacation homes.  Many people will also go to Craigslist and other similar sites.  These websites can be very easy and efficient ways to locate a great vacation home.   Unfortunately, they are also a great way for scam artists to steal money from unwary people looking for a vacation home.  The scam usually starts with a listing that looks very official and there is a good reason for that.  The listing is a real on line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information.  The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential renters.  The potential renters are often told that the owner is out of the country and that there are many people interested in the property so if the tenant wants to be considered for renting it, the tenant has to wire money to the landlord somewhere outside of the country.  As I have warned you many times, wiring money is a scammer’s first choice because it is all but impossible to retrieve once you have found out that you have been scammed.  Too often, unwary potential tenants wire the money and never hear anything further from the scam landlord.  And as for the money, it is gone forever.

TIPS

There are a number of red flags to look for in vacation home rental scams.  First, as always, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true.  Also be wary of landlords who are out of the country.  Never send your payment by a wire transfer or a cashier’s check.  Use a credit card, PayPal or any other payment system with which you can retrieve your funds if the transaction is fraudulent.  It is usually best to deal with websites that specialize in vacation homes, but you must remember that they cannot possibly monitor every listing to ensure that it is legitimate.  You also can check out who really is the owner by going on line to the tax assessor’s office of the city or town where the property is located and look up who the real owner is.  If it doesn’t match the name of the person attempting to rent you the home, you should not go through with the rental.  Also Google the name of the owner with the word “scam” next to his or her name and see if anything comes up to make you concerned.

Scam of the day – June 11, 2013 – Latest Craigslist scam

More and more people are using Craigslist as a source for home rentals, however enterprising scammers are using Craigslist to put phony listings and tricking people into sending money as a security deposit or first month’s rent before they find out that the scammer does not own the home.  This was the unfortunate situation that happened recently to Renata Cox who was moving along with her three children to Nashville, Tennessee.  She went on Craigslist and found a great deal for a rental in a nice neighborhood.  Ms. Cox wired $1,100 to the scammer living in, of all places, Nigeria and finally learned that the home was not owned by the person who took her money at the time she went to move in.  Now she is homeless and out $1,100.

TIPS

The vast majority of the listings on Craigslist are legitimate, but you only have to be cheated by one to feel the pain.  When the rent looks too good to be true, you should immediately be skeptical.  When the landlord is out of the country and wants you to wire money, you should be even more skeptical and if by out of the country we mean Nigeria, you should really be skeptical.  Scammers prefer people to wire money because unlike a check or a credit card payment, it is almost impossible to stop payment or get the money back.  If you are considering a place on Craigslist, confirm that the person who says he or she is the owner by going to the tax assessors listings which are available online.  If the names don’t match, that is a recipe for disaster.  Also, go on line and see if you can find a duplicate listing for the home you find on Craigslist.  Often scammers merely copy legitimate listings and change the name.  If you find a duplicate listing with a different name, you should avoid doing business with that person.

Scam of the day – May 2, 2013 – Craigslist scam update

Often I will remind you about particular types of scams I have mentioned before because they continue to victimize many people.  Earlier this week a Pennsylvania man became a victim of a common Craigslist scam when he put an ad on Craigslist to sell a piece of furniture for $350.  He was contacted by someone who sent him a check for $1,350 and asked the seller to merely deposit the check, deduct the $350 and send the rest back to the buyer by way of a money order.  The check looked legitimate so the seller deposited it and sent the difference back to the buyer.  Unfortunately, the check was a forgery so the seller lost the money he sent to the scam artist posing as a buyer.  Often in these circumstances the check will appear to be a bank check or a certified check, but it is just a forgery.  Other times, the sellers will think they are being prudent by waiting a few days for the check to clear only to learn later that it can take weeks for a check to fully clear and the provisional credit that they are given by the bank after a few days does not mean that the check was not a forgery because once it is recognized as a forgery, the provisional credit is taken away by the bank and the victim is left with a reduced bank account.

TIPS

Whenever you are paid for something that you are selling by a check for more than the amount that is due and that payment comes with a request for you to send the difference back to the buyer, you should consider this a sign that this is a  scam.  Also, anytime you are paid by a check you should wait for the check to fully clear before turning over the sold goods.  Even if the check appears to be a bank check or a certified check, it may well be a forgery so you should contact your bank to make sure that the check has fully cleared before you consider the payment to have been made.  Regardless of the excuse that may be given to you as to the reason for payment by way of a check for more than what is owed, you should be suspicious.  Finally, always be wary when someone requires you to send payment by Western Union or wired from your bank because once those payments have been made, it is impossible to get the money back.

 

Scam of the day – April 2, 2013 – Craigslist home rental scam

Craigslist is a popular place for people looking to rent a home or an apartment that can be very efficient and cost effective for landlords and tenants alike.  Unfortunately, it also is a very efficient way for scam artists to steal money from unwary people looking for a place to rent.  The scam usually starts with a real estate listing that looks very official and there is a good reason for that.  The listing is a real on line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information.  The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential tenants.  The potential tenants are usually told that the owner is out of the country and that there are many people interested in the property so if the tenant wants to be considered for renting it, the tenant has to wire money to the landlord somewhere outside of the country.  As I have warned you many times, wiring money is a scammers first choice because it is all but impossible to retrieve once you have found out that you have been scammed.  Too often, unwary potential tenants wire the money and never hear anything further from the scam landlord.  And as for the money, it is gone forever.

TIPS

There are a number of red flags to look for in Craigslist rental scams.  First, as always, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true.  Also be wary of landlords who are out of the country and cannot meet with you in person.  Never pay a deposit or any other money to a landlord or his or her agent whom you do not meet in person and take you into the property.  Scammers won’t have keys.  You also can check out who really is the owner by going on line to the tax assessor’s office of the city or town where the property is located and look up who the real owner is.  If the names don’t match, it is a scam.  This is how I found out in time that a Craigslist real estate listing that my own son and daughter-in-law were considering was a scam.  You also can Google the address of the property.  If you find that it is being listed by legitimate real estate agencies for sale, this is a good indication that the listing was forged from one of the legitimate real estate agencies.  Taking a few careful steps can protect you from becoming a victim of this scam.