Renter/Check Scams

A very common internet based scam that St. Thomas community members have fallen victim to is rental scams. Landlords post homes, apartments or sublets to rent, and will be contacted by someone claiming to be a St. Thomas student. The emails appear perfectly normal at first, but after discussing terms, the interested party offers to send more money than what is being asked for. The victim is instructed to keep the necessary amount for a rental deposit, then send the difference back to the scammer, or a third party on their behalf. The victim receives a check or money order and cashes it, only to later learn the check or money order was fake.

Counterfeit checks and money orders look very real, and can even fool bank staff. Under federal law, banks must make deposited funds available quickly. Just because you withdraw the money, doesn’t mean the check is good. It can take weeks to discovery forgeries. Financial institutions that lose money as a result of cashing a fraudulent check expect to recoup the loss, and this is at the expense of the victim. 

Fake payment scams, as with most scams, sound very believable. There's no reason for anyone to ever offer more money than asked for when renting space.