HOUSTON, Texas — Renting a property online has its risks. Con men are searching the internet, looking to rip off unsuspecting victims. The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
"We decided we would rent it out when we aren’t using it -- so I put it online," Garrett explained.
The motor home lot was 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," Garrett said.
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," recalled Garrett.
Postal inspectors were suspicious of the foreign address and pulled the check for fear that it was fraudulent — and it was.
"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," Garrett said.
Here's how the scam works: Con men send a fraudulent check for more than the agreed amount and ask 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 send the "difference" to the con men.
"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," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Gary Neff.
Garrett considers herself lucky that the fraudulent check was pulled and says she had 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," Garrett said.
If you're brokering a deal online, make sure you do as much research before you enter into any financial transaction.