This recently reported scam is another version of the Cashier's Cheque Fraud already listed on our Scam Page.
In this specific situation the landlord (and potential victim) is advertising a suite for rent on the internet. A potential renter (the scammer), generally writing from outside Canada in these types of scams, answers the add and agrees to the tenancy. Money orders are then sent by the potential renter to cover the first several months rent and secure the tenancy. (see scanned copy of fraudulent money order)
In this type of scam the money orders arrive in an amount that is over and above the rental amount agreed upon. The renter then contacts the landlord and asks her/him to "wire" the overpayment back - in this case through Western Union.
If the landlord cashes the money orders or cheques via a bank machine, or they somehow get past a teller, it may be some time before the bank realizes that they are counterfeit. Once found out, the bank will then notify the landlord. However, if the landlord has already sent the overpayment money off to the scammer, it is too late to recover the funds. In addition, the bank will require the total amount of original deposit be returned to them, even if the money has already been spent by the landlord. There is no way to trace back to the bogus renter so landlords are left with no renter and the issue of repayment to sort out with the bank.
HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?
We recommend that you exercise extreme caution when you conduct transactions of this sort. In every case, have a bank official verify the authenticity of any type of currency (cash, cheques, money orders, traveler's cheques) that you receive from an unknown source. If you are ever returning funds make sure your original cheque has cleared and is verified by a bank official.
To help identify fraudulent currency look for water marks, smudges or less than flawless printing. Read the currency to see what security features it has, then verify that these features are present. In this case the cheques themselves said they had "micro-print in the amount box" (top line of print). An check with the naked eye or magnifying glass would have revealed that the micro-print was illegible.
If you live in Saanich and would like more information on detecting counterfeit currency, please contact our Crime Prevention Section at 475-4346.