Thoughts on bottom feeders

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CNN has an article today on scammers using Facebook and Twitter to steal people’s identity.  The story is just one more reminder that bottom feeders are lurking everywhere and those of us who are just trying to keep our heads above the water these days can be yanked downward by them.

My husband and I own (well, do our best to keep up with the payments on) a vacation house in Sedona, Ariz.  The only way we can afford to hang onto it right now is to rent it out pretty much non-stop to tourists. So we have listings on the HomeAway & VRBO websites, which are devoted to property owners who want to connect with potential renters.

We’ve been on edge in recent weeks because, while November is completely booked, reservations for December and January (except for the holiday period) are lacking.  So we were excited when we got an inquiry from someone who said he lived in the U.K. and was interested in possibly renting our place for two weeks in early December. I wrote a response touting the house, said it was available, hit the send button and then realized it was probably a scam. The tip-off, which finally registered with my brain: he wanted to know whether it was available from Dec. 1th to the 15th. The 1th?

I searched the HomeAway tips for property owners and it had a page on scammers. It seems they make an inquiry, set up a rental, then say they’ll only pay by check. No credit cards or Pay-Pal. They’ll ask for detailed information about who to make the check out to, where to send it, etc. Then they’ll send you a check for an amount that exceeds the amount of the rental, say it was a mistake and ask you to send the difference to a third party. By the time the  naive property owner figures out what’s going on, the original check will turn out to be bad and the bad guy has pocketed the difference. One of the way to recognize such a scammer is that they’ll say they’re from the U.K. (although they’re usually from Nigeria), provide a mobile phone number and that there will typically be grammatical or spelling errors in their inquiries.

Sure enough,  our suspected scammer’s response, which came in a couple of days later, was that I was to send him detailed information so he could send a check. He would not pay by credit card or Pay-Pal.

I hated breaking the news to my husband. It utterly ruined his day and for that reason alone I’d like to harpoon this creep before he can do more harm.


Written by Carol Cormaci

October 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Posted in thoughts

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