Wary lodge owner avoids falling prey to cashier’s check scam
Thanks to an increased focus about fraud schemes, Grand Junction resident deese Dancy picked out the red flags and avoided becoming a victim.
Dancy, who owns a lodge on Grand Mesa, thought things were progressing normally when she was emailing back and forth between some Russian tourists about the details of renting the home.
It was when those folks wanted her to cash a cashier’s check and send them back some money that she became concerned.
“I took it to the bank and the gal there was very savvy,” Dancy said. “The woman said, ‘That sounds like fraud to me.’ She looked up the cashier’s check for the institution and the logo doesn’t even look the same.”
On average, about one of 10 people who inquire about renting her property listed with the Vacation By Owner website service end up renting the home located between Mesa and Powderhorn Mountain Resort, she said.
So it was not uncommon for the Grand Junction woman to spend about 2 1/2 weeks emailing back and forth the details of renting the lodge. Although some of the wording in the tourists’ emails was off, that might be typical for folks writing in a second language, she reasoned. She receives inquiries about the lodge from potential vacationers from around the world.
Four adults wanted to rent the home for a week, so as usual, Dancy required an upfront 20 percent deposit.
She was sent a cashier’s check for $2,900 but the deposit was only $1,400. It was the first time in more than two years that she’s been renting out the vacation home that someone tried to pay with a cashier’s check.
“They said take your money out and send back the remainder,” Dancy recalled. “I don’t think so.”
As the scam goes, people unwittingly cash the bad checks and send back the money. The checks initially pass bank approval, but then bounce and the person who cashed the phony check is on the hook for reimbursing funds to the bank or their own bank account.
Dancy said the cashier’s check she received appeared legitimate and it was stamped with an official-looking European postmark. And, if she had been distracted she might not have questioned it until it was too late. Thankfully she remembered reading a story in this newspaper alerting folks about common scams and determined that her situation seemed to share some similarities.
Years ago, Dancy worked for a human services department in Texas in its fraud division, but she noted that scams have become more sophisticated.
“People really do need to be aware of this,” she said.
Anyone who thinks they may be the victim of any kind of financial scam can file an online report with the Grand Junction Police Department or contact the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department at 244-3500.
Each agency lists common fraud schemes circulating in the area. Search for more information about scams occurring in this areas via online links at both agencies, http://www.sheriff.mesacounty.us or at http://www.gjcity.org.