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3-On Your Side: Craigslist Rental Scam

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.”

Watch the video…

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

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  • Diane

    Here’s the address I was scammed by this week. Same thing, Craig’s List. I did send them the Lease, but when I received the email last night requesting money be sent back to them, I pulled the plug. I changed my email address, password, contact my bank, and I have a call into Craig’s List and the State Department. They got nothing more from me other than a name and address. Thank god. I also googled the mailing address and there are more people who had dealings with them at that address, which is Mr. and Mrs. Rose Smith, 30 Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7LA, United Kingdom. Scenario was that her husband’s employer was paying for the vacation, yatta, yatta, yatta, sent too much and wanted some back to “buy” a car. Why would you “buy” a car for a week that costs $2,000?

  • sharon burr

    omg, we got scammed by this same guy, mackdonas gary, and we live in florida. i sent him hundreds of dollars back, but only after the centerstate bank said the check was clear. i would have sent him more, but my debit car had a limit. i am still fighting with the bank over the money. i feel as if they shouldn’t have told us it was gonna clear in a few days and then given us a printout saying that it was available until they knew it was a good check. i wish you would have posted this right away, because ours happened the middle of april. we called the sheriff and they came over and got all the info, but i haven’t heard anything back as of yet. i did use western union to send the money and it was picked up in london.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, Mike. Didn’t you read the article? The couple did NOT fall for the scam. In fact, they beat the scammers at their own game. I love it when people see through these scams and pull the rug out from under the perps. Good going, Rita and Tony.

  • Michael J Kelly

    I dont’t know how people fall for stuff like this. You would have to be brainless to send someone money like that without even knowing who they are. How dumb do these apes in these internet cafes think Americans are anyway ?

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