Safe from Scams: Online property rental

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Renting a property online has its risks. Especially with con men searching the internet looking to rip off unsuspecting victims. (KFSN)

Renting a property online has its risks. Especially with con men searching the internet looking to rip off unsuspecting victims.

"We decided we would rent it out when we aren't using it, so I put it online," said Jacqueline Garrett, fraud victim.

Jacqueline is talking about this motorhome lot she and her husband own in Florida. "I got an email from a man that said he wanted to use it for-- it was three weeks in November, and that was perfect-- it was vacant."

They agreed on a price and worked out all of the details but the check never arrived. "I said the check hasn't come and he sent me a tracking number and so when we tracked that check, it turned out that it had been pulled."

Postal inspectors were suspicious of the foreign address and pulled the check for fear it was fraudulent-- and it was. That's when they reached out to Jacqueline. "I was terrified, I'm a rule follower, I don't break rules, and I'm very trusting and my husband tells me that sometimes I'm probably too trusting."

Here is how the scam works: a conman sends a fraudulent check for more than the agreed amount and asks the victim to send the difference back. By the time the bank catches up with the bad check it's too late. The victim has deposited the check in their account and sent the "difference" to the conmen. "A lot of consumers have the misconception that the bank would assume the losses in a situation like this. When in reality, you, as a consumer, are responsible for the funds that you deposit into your account and for the funds that you withdraw from your account," said Gary Neff, US Postal Inspector.

Jacqueline considers herself lucky the fraudulent check was pulled and says she has learned a lesson. "I would make sure I got references and call those references, and make sure that there was phone communication between the renter and myself," said Jacqueline.

Postal inspectors emphasize doing as much research you can before you enter any financial transaction, especially if the deal is brokered online.

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