Fraud Follow-Up

Last week I wrote about the scam I experienced with my cottage. A guy wrote, posing as a traveler. He asked to pay directly through his company and I went along. It didn’t smell right when he didn’t confirm an arrival time with me, nor send the check he said he would. When he said the check was going to be for more than the rental amount and he needed me to remit the $2500 balance so that he and his son Nathan could buy the tickets for their flights (the day of their supposed arrival!), I was done.

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I told him I wasn’t doing that. Clearly the scammers have other people to prey on and turned their attention elsewhere because I didn’t hear from him again after that…

…until six days later when he said the check had been sent.

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I did not respond and was out of town, but sure enough something arrived. Sandy stopped at my mailbox that day, saw the card that said something was waiting at the post office for pick-up, and went to retrieve it. When the postal clerk went to get it from the back, she returned saying she could not hand it over because it had been flagged as possible fraud and would need to be sent to the postmaster.

The very kind postmaster called me today and confirmed that every bit of this piece of mail was fraudulent: the check itself, the return address, even the printed-out postage sticker itself. “Looks like a home computer job,” he said. “We see this all the time, but not so much in regard to rentals.”

Of course I feel stupid and wish I could say I was smart enough to see through it earlier. I should have taken the time to carefully consider what was happening. There are reasons I didn’t.

1. When the weird texts were happening, I was in a hurry, I didn’t feel good and I had an appointment so was trying to rush out the door.

2. I did not want to judge him for poor English (“this tickets money”) because there are lots of reasons for imperfect English.

3. The cottage is my livelihood – I want and need the business.

4. I stand more often in the benefit-of-the-doubt, innocent-until-proven-guilty camp. I want to believe people are good. Most of them are. But not all.

I still feel stupid. Four and a half years I’ve been renting my cottage. Four and a half years of wonderful guests and wonderful experiences. Now this. All I can say is Be on the lookout – scammers are out there looking for money any way they can get it.

8 thoughts on “Fraud Follow-Up

  1. When I read your story the other day, I thought how you really didn’t lose their business, they were never coming to begin with. I was happy that you denied their request. A win for honest people!

    How interesting that the US Mail was on the case! Perhaps my tax dollars are at work in this institution. My Grandfather was the Poatmaster in our small town for 23 years and he would love this ending to a perfect story of NOT being scammed.

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    • I am very glad to have lost their business — I just wish I had known sooner so I could have opened up the cottage to other guests sooner. As it was I did host one couple one of the five nights I was able to unblock.
      I wonder what your grandfather would think of the fraud. The Postmaster I spoke to in Richmond yesterday has been doing this for decades as well. Imagine what they have seen!

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  2. This really needs to be made aware of to others on Air Bnb & VRBO and all the others that rent rooms/cottages/homes. Charlottesville is a mecca for Air BnB’s/VRBO, it would make for a great article in the paper or news station, too as a community service announcement!

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      • I called the postmaster back. He assured me that the post office is not only all over this kind of stuff but also that they have a lot of public service communications aimed at helping people be more aware. One of the most common scams is sweepstakes fraud (“you’ve won! but you just need to pay the advance fees”). Mainly scammers target the elderly, and some have lost their life savings. He is sending me some of their literature, and we’ll go from there.

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  3. Don’t feel stupid. You didn’t fall for it. You win.
    In Japan, I once got fleeced out of $10 by a fake monk. It was a tough blow to my pride. Then I realized, why am I so caught up in my pride? Haha.
    I can’t believe they even printed out their own postage! LOL, how dumb.

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