Fake check scammers hunt for victims. The scammers frequent online listings for rentals and/or goods for sale. Timeshare rentals are a popular target for fake check scams. The scammers focus their attention on inexperienced, trusting, and often desperate individuals. We will explain the scam, but more importantly, we will also provide tips to avoid the scam.
The scam follows this basic script, although there may be slight variations:
A scammer will contact a timeshare owner offering their timeshare for rent. The scammer will often represent themselves as a party interested in renting the timeshare at a higher price than listed. For this example we will say the listing price for the rental is $1,000 for one week. The scammer will offer a $1,500 for the week, with the payment in the form of either a check or a money order. There are a number of common explanations for the higher price. The most common explanation is their employer has already written the check in the higher amount. The scammer will also explain that they most of the difference back. They would like the timeshare owner to deposit the $1,500 check and mail the renter a money order for $400, the timeshare owner should keep the additional $100 for their trouble. The timeshare owner accepts the offer. The owner receives the check in the mail, deposits the check, and sends out a money order the same day for the $400 difference.
On the surface this appears to be a legitimate transaction. The timeshare owner is usually happy to have their week rented, until they receive a call from the bank. Realization of the fraud comes about when the timeshare owner is notified that the check was fake and the $1,500 has been removed from their account.
Victims of the fraud often do not understand why it took so long for the bank to determine the check was fake. The scammer took advantage of “the float”. Regulations require that banks make funds deposited from a check available immediately. The float is the difference in time between the check being presented for payment (the deposit) and the check being payed by the issuing bank. In the case of a fake check, there is no issuing bank. The scammer depends on the victim sending a money order before the bank determines the check to be fake.
The scam may have variations. The story is the easiest component to change, and there are many variations. The scammer may send a check, cashiers check, or a money order. In some scams the check is valid, but the check is canceled after the scammer receives the money order from the victim.
Timeshare owners can avoid the scam by following these simple rules:
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