Reporting Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Summer is just around the corner. It’s time for the sun, the surf and scams!
One couple renting out their shore home almost got taken for thousands of dollars. 3-On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan reveals how the fraud works and how to protect yourself.
This is the first time that Rita and Tony Arrigo have advertised their Wildwood Crest duplex for rent using Craigslist and it’s definitely been an eye-opener.
Rita Arrigo says, “Never in all my life have I encountered anything like this.”
A day after posting their ad, the Arrigo’s got a bite from a man in England named Ben Harry.
Rita says, “He and his wife were interested in coming for an extended weekend. He lives in England, his wife works here in America. It sounded a little strange, but I thought let’s see what happens here.”
Since it was the offseason, Rita offered Ben a three night stay for $300. But even before the check arrived, there was a glitch. Ben e-mailed saying that his wife’s company had sent Rita too much money. He told her that he would need her to return what they overpaid so he could book his airline flights.
When Rita and Tony finally got the check, it was for $5500 dollars!
“Who would make a mistake of $5200?” asks Tony.
That when the red flags went up and bells went off.
Rita says, “There is no way I am going to send $5200 to anybody in the mail.”
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And that’s a good thing, since the check wasn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It was counterfeit.
Tony noticed that even the addresses weren’t consistent. Ben said he lived at 76 Buckingham Palace Road in London. We checked; that’s the offices of Google in the United Kingdom.
Also the delivery packet had a return address that didn’t make sense. We found out that it was the location of the United States Mint in Washington, D.C.
At one point, Rita even spoke with the Ben by phone. She said he didn’t sound British. In fact she said he had a South Africa, or perhaps Nigerian accent.
Rita told Ben that she didn’t get the check just to see what he would do next. So he sent another one! Again it was off by $5200. And the renters name changed too, from Ben Harry to Mackdonas Gary!
This leaves Rita to offer this advice to anyone listing a shore rental on Craigslist. She says, “Don’t be too anxious to cash the check.”
The names and places may change, but this scam is always the same. The checks are counterfeit. Scam artists count on the fact that it takes banks several days to let you know the check is no good. In the meantime, you’ve already sent back the overpayment, usually by Western Union. It’s money that you’ll never see again.
Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3