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(National) February 14, 2007 - Online scammers con people out of an estimated $335 million a year. There are all sorts of scams and all types of targets. One scam is targeting landlords trying to rent apartments.
Gloria Gali turned to the internet to post an apartment for rent after she and her husband did not get a good response to print ads, "We placed ads in the newspaper and the answers were not that good."
She quickly got an e-mail response from a man who said he lived in London. He said his employer was sending a cashier's check for $6,000. He said some of the check would cover the $3,500 deposit - and the rest would pay for his $2,500 travel expenses.
When Gloria got the check, the man asked her to send the money for him to move. That was what warned her, "They don't know us. Why would they send us a $6,000 check? Doesn't make any sense."
The Galis deposited the cashier's check and the $6,000 went into their bank account. But they did not send the $2,500.
Special agent Steven Garfinkel of the FBI says unfortunately, when people fall for these scams, by the time the check is found to be bogus, the scammer is long gone, "By that time the scam artist is, as we say, 'in the wind.' He's got your money. We can't find him. And you're going to be out that dollar amount."
Consumer Reports' Bob Tiernan says most of the con artists targeting landlords claim to be from the UK. But no matter where they're from, the best defense is common sense. "If anyone sends you a cashier's check and wants you to send them money back, don't fall for it."
Gloria Gali didn't. A week after the cashier's check was deposited, the bank verified it was no good - "item returned counterfeit."
Gloria's common sense spared her from losing $2,500.
If you come across a scam like this, Consumer Reports says you should contact the nearest office of the FBI or the US Secret Service.