Small business victim of fraud
Steamboat Springs — A North Routt County business owner has lost thousands of dollars in a foreign scam that police officials say is reminiscent of a fraud that hit three other North Routt businesses in March.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Ken Klinger said Tuesday that a small business owner recently found out he had been the victim of a scam when he tried to cash a fraudulent check. The man lost about $5,000, Klinger said.
Klinger said operators of the scheme prey on small bed and breakfasts and hotels by sending an e-mail requesting accommodations and then sending an exorbitant amount of money to cover the cost of the accommodations.
In each reported fraud case, the owner of the small business was asked to cash the fraudulent payment, keep the amount of money needed to cover the stay and then send back the remaining money to the company requesting the stay.
However, once the business owner realizes the check is fraudulent, he or she most likely already has lost thousands of dollars, Klinger said.
“Though these few instances occurred in North Routt, this type of scam can happen anywhere in the county or in Steamboat Springs to small bed and breakfast-type places that don’t have huge networks like the (Sheraton Resort Hotel),” he said.
Business owners should be aware of any suspicious e-mail requesting accommodations from people in the United Kingdom or Nigeria, Klinger said.
The e-mails are characterized by poor grammar and usually are sent by people saying they are with a religious group, he said.
The person sending the e-mail poses as a travel agent, makes the reservation and then sends a fraudulent check or money order to pay for the accommodation. A follow-up e-mail usually is sent to the business owner alerting him or her that the sent check was not correct and then instructs the business owner to send the remaining money back to the company, he said.
A business owner should be wary anytime he or she receives payment that is four or five times greater than the bill, Klinger said.
“The minute you get something that just doesn’t smell right or your gut tells you something isn’t right, you need to call the authorities to come look at it,” he said. “If you’re in Routt County, call the (Routt County Sheriff’s Office). If you’re in the city of Steamboat Springs, call the city police.”
– To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail email@example.com
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