Scammers preying on people renting homes for Obamas inauguration

January 16th, 2009 - 5:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan.16 (ANI): People hoping to cash in on the crowds expected to attend next weeks presidential inauguration, run the risk of falling prey to scammers
A FOX News report has revealed that online postings for getting a place to stay on rent during the event, are more often than turning out to be a nightmare for those posting it, as they run the risk of being trapped by fakes.
Scott Churilla, 31, of Bethesda, Maryland, was one such victim. Early last month, he placed a message on the popular online classifieds site Craigslist, promising his Bethesda condo — with its two queen-size beds, walk-in closet, 50-inch plasma TV, washer and dryer, balcony and two parking spots — to anyone willing to pay 1,000 dollars a night.
“Two bedrooms, two baths with spacious living room is a great place to call home during Inauguration week,” the message said.
Someone expressed interest. In an e-mail on December 11, a man named “Sade Thomas” — describing himself as “a business personal here in the England [sic]” — told Churilla that his daughter would like to rent the condo for three days over the Inauguration. Churilla responded with more details about the arrangement.
Several days later, a check for 4,550 dollars arrived in Churilla’’s mailbox, apparently issued by Puget Sound Instrument Company in Washington state — its name and address printed on the top left. The check’’s written value was more than Churilla had required.
Two days before Christmas, he received another e-mail, written in somewhat broken English: “The payment that was sent to you is in excess of the amount that was meant to be sent and this mistake was caused by my personal assistance, because he send both your funds and the travel agent in charge of my daughter’’s flight funds.”
The e-mail went on to say that the travel agent “requested” the excess funds be returned via Western Union, along with an e-mail detailing the “money transfer control number,” the exact amount sent, and the sender’’s name and address.
That prompted Churilla — yet to divulge any personal information to “Mr. Thomas” — to call Pugent Sound Instrument Company. A representative told him the check was a fake.
In fact, an employee with the company told FOX News that the routing and account number on the check didn”t match any real banking account.
According to the Pugent Sound Instrument employee, the company has received about 30 calls from people targeted by the same scheme.
The calls started in mid-December, and the employee thinks hundreds could”ve been targeted.
“It’’s pretty bad,” the employee said.
Federal authorities, meanwhile, have not heard of any such schemes leading up to next week’’s Inauguration.
One FBI official said these cases have yet to reach anyone’’s desk at the FBI. (ANI)

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