Spotting rental, credit card scammers

The Durango Police Department often receives complaints from residents in reference to scams. It is difficult to catch these scammers, because most of them live in a different country. The best way for us to protect you is to inform you about what they are so you can avoid them completely.

Here is a look at two common types of scams.

The first type deals with rental properties. Durango has many of these properties listed, and we have become an easy target for these scammers.

There are three versions of this scam:

Someone poses as a landlord on Craigslist. The scammer posts an apartment or house for rent, including pictures. The scammer collects deposits from several would-be renters and then is nowhere to be found on the move-in date.

Someone poses as a friend or relative of a homeowner who is sick or out of town. The scammer lists a house or apartment for rent in the homeowner’s absence. Again, the scammer collects deposits and maybe first or last month’s rent from several people and then is never heard from again.

A scammer responds to an ad for a rental posing as a potential renter. The scammer then sends the landlord a fake or forged money order or cashier’s check in an amount that exceeds that required for the deposit. The scammer then asks the landlord to send the overpayment back.

Avoiding these scams is fairly easy. The first step is to make sure you meet in person at the location to be rented. Most of these scammers are in a different country, and they are not going to meet you at the address in question.

You also can do a quick search on the La Plata County GIS website if you have concerns about a property owner. All property owners are listed on this website. Visit http://lpcgis.laplata.co.us/laplatasl and type in the property address in the “Search Here” box.

You also can go through a rental agency instead of Craigslist.

And finally, if you are a landlord, do not accept overpayment for anything. There also are several websites to help landlords conduct background checks on potential renters. Use these services, as the fees often are inexpensive insurance compared with problems that can arise from not doing a background check.

The second type of scam deals with credit cards and debit cards. The scammer calls you and already has your credit or debit card number. The scammer claims to be from your bank and advises you that your card has been compromised. He or she might even ask you about a recent charge that is fraudulent and advise you that the bank’s Credit Fraud Team is working on this particular scam with the company whose charge is now on your card.

It all sounds very convincing that the bank is looking out for your best interest. The last thing the scammer asks for is the three-digit security code on the back of your credit or debit card to ensure you have the card in your possession. In reality, that is the only information missing to use your card.

This scam was one used in the movie “Identity Thief.”

To avoid this scam, do not provide any credit card information over the phone to anyone you don’t know. Credit card companies and banks never will text you to alert you about fraud. If they call you, they never will ask you for any information from your card; they already have it. If your card has been compromised, they will direct you to a local bank where you can talk to a representative in person about your account. Again, they don’t do anything to fix your account over the phone.

Now that you are aware, you can avoid becoming the next victim, and we can put these scammers out of business in our area.

Lt. Ray Shupe is assistant operations division commander with the Durango Police Department.

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