Beware of scam targeting people doing business online
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Have you ever turned to the web, when looking to rent or rent out a property? One valley woman did and found herself the target of a scam. Now in a Contact 13 consumer alert, Tricia Kean shows us what to look out for, so you don't fall victim.
"I mean I was tempted. I saw the amount and I said oh look," says Yasmine Gallardo.
It's a number that would get anyone's attention. Yasmine received this check in the mail last month for $6,900. She got it after going on Craigslist to advertise this home for rent.
"I received an email from someone saying, I'm interested in renting the property," says Yasmine.
The email was from a Dr. Kelly Smit in London. It says he was moving to Las Vegas for the next year for some work with the Environmental Protection Agency. But before renting out the home, Yasmine asked the doctor to fill out an application.
"And about 2 weeks later, I received an envelope with no name, just my address on it," says Yasmine.
Inside was that $6,900 check with no note and no explanation. But Yasmine did get an email from Dr. Smit, telling her he had sent the check as a payment for rent and the security deposit.
"I said yes! I'm not going to make 2 mortgage payments at once. It will be rented out," says Yasmine.
But before cashing the check, Yasmine was still waiting for Dr. Smit to fill out the rental application for this house. Instead, he sent a second check, this time for $4,000. In another email, he asked Yasmine if she could "take delivery of the furniture" being sent to the house.
"He wanted me to cash the check and then from there, send a certain amount through Western Union," says Yasmine.
Yasmine says that's when she decided to call up the bank and found out both checks were fake. So she emailed Contact 13. We made our own calls and verified both checks are in fact bogus.
"We see hundreds of cases that come in," says Supervisory Special Agent Scott Hunter with the Las Vegas FBI.
He says if you get a check in the mail from someone you don't know, do not deposit or cash it. Because you could find yourself in trouble with the bank.
"They're going to come back to the customer and they're going to hold the customer responsible for those funds," says Scott.
And if the bank suspects you of being involved in the check scam, you could be prosecuted. Meanwhile, the scammer gets away with any funds you may have wired, because it's virtually impossible to trace where that money goes. As for Yasmine, she just hopes others learn from her story.
"Really look at the whole situation, before you determine what to do," says Yasmine.
So here's the Contact 13 bottom line. When you can, deal locally with folks you can meet in person. In Yasmine's case, she was suspicious when Dr. Smit never filled out an application. Always question anyone not willing to provide their contact information and especially beware of anyone asking you to wire funds.
If you think you've been the victim of a fake check scam, be sure to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) FTC-HELP.