BASS LAKE – It’s an old scam. Someone sends you a check and asks you to deposit it, then send them back some of the money, citing any of a variety of sketchy reasons.
You deposit the check, only to discover later that it was bogus. The bank takes back all the money and you’re left holding the bag for the cash you sent to the scammer.
Recently, Tammy Johnson, a Hanford resident who manages her family’s rental property at Bass Lake, was the target of such a scam, but this sharp lady was having none of it.
Johnson’s Bass Lake property was listed on VRBO, and someone identifying himself as Teddy Hartley emailed her asking that she reserve certain dates for himself and his wife.
“Hartley” explained that he was in Europe to take care of his sick mother-in-law and asked Johnson to reply with her full name, address, city, state, cell phone number, email and total price for the rental – all information readily available on VRBO. He included his email address and cell phone number, and Johnson emailed him the information.
Then Hartley said he wanted to send her a check instead of going through the VRBO website, and that his accountant would be mailing her the payment.
Johnson wrote back and told him that she preferred to go through VRBO, but learned that the check was already in the mail.
Mr. Hartley then emailed Johnson explaining that, ooops, the accountant had messed up and erroneously included his and his wife’s airfare back from Europe to California in the payment, and would she please deposit the check and send him the difference:
By this time, Johnson’s b.s. alarm was at high volume, and then she received the check. She immediately noted that Mr. Hartley’s name was not on it. A subsequent Google search by Sierra News Online showed that the routing number was not that of the credit union that supposedly issued the funds, and the address provided in his email was that of the Indigo Hotel in Los Angeles.
Included with the check was a piece of paper with instructions on how to proceed once the “payment” was in hand.
The instructions also included this note – “Due to high volume of calls please leave text message.” A call to the number was answered by a Google Voice recording. We were placed on hold and then informed that, sadly, the Google customer was not available to take our call.
Another quick search by SNO revealed multiple complaints about the phone number provided being used for this very type of scam – here’s a big fat check, now send us money.
Johnson then emailed back to “Mr. Hartley.”
“I got the check today. But I’m not going to cash it. It sounds kind of fishy to me. I also contacted the Kings County Sheriff’s department and they also said the same thing.
So if you want to rent the cabin you need to pay for it on line like everyone else.”
Hartley was less than gracious in his reply.
“You are very stupid for saying this because i told you before there was a mix up on the payment.”
Johnson was done with this game, and responded within seconds.
“Not going to cash it. I’m mailing it back to them or they can stop payment on it. Don’t call me stupid!!”
Johnson says the culprit is still texting her, but she has moved on and is ignoring him.
It is nearly impossible to track down these types of scammers. Sheriff Jay Varney warns that people always need to be on their guard.
“It’s unfortunate that each year scammers come up with new twists on old scams,” says Sheriff Varney. “Think defensively when an unknown customer asks you to do anything outside your normal business practices, especially when it comes to payment options.”