Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brewster Academy Check Fraud

I'm writing this in hopes of warning others about an online group of evildoers trying to take advantage of people. I have a condo for rent in Decatur, GA, and since my current renters are moving out I placed an ad to find new renters. So far I've had a couple of local calls and one person came by to check it out. Then I received an email from someone claiming to be an incoming university student (the condo is right down the street from Emory University) named "Tomaz Gayle". "She" claimed to be from the UK and wanted to rent my condo. Great! Except.... "Her" writing style was odd, either like a 3rd grade student or like one of my friends who learned English as a 3rd or 4th language. Not like someone born in England! "Her" (I use quotes because who knows?) posts also included far more personal information than a normal renter would use, like this: "I am a 24yrs old lady from Cardiff, UK and I would be doing a program at the University. I am down to earth. I get along with people easily and I like meeting people. I also like traveling, painting, listening to music, dancing, swimming, badminton, tennis and reading. I don't smoke and drink." Sounds more like an ad for a mail-order bride than for a potential renter, but I have many friends from Africa and other places who say odd things because of cultural differences, so at that point I was wary but willing to proceed. "She" said that being in the UK the payment would be sent from her father who was in the US. I explained that I had not yet approved them as renters, and forwarded my application form. Warning sign #2 was when "she" seemed to ignore that part. Long story short, after a few emails from her Dad, and an email from one of two references provided (btw everyone who contacted me in this used a yahoo.com email address - very unusual coincidence, and also makes them difficult for me to trace but fortunately easy for Yahoo to trace), I received a check via UPS. From New Jersey, hand addressed with handwriting that looks like a 5-year old's (also matches my suspicion that english is not this person's first language). Oh, along the way I also received some photos from the "young girl" showing her to be a cute young blonde woman. I do wonder whose Facebook page these pics were stolen from - I wonder how I'd feel if someone somewhere was sending out Chip Reaves pics while committing some sort of criminal act. The check, however, was from "Brewster Academy", a private school in New Hampshire. And it was for 7x the expected deposit amount: $3500 instead of $500. (BTW, the "renters" had never asked what the deposit amount should be). The way this sort of scam works is like this: Some unsuspecting person deposits this check, and the renter then asks them to send back some portion of the overage via Western Union or a similar cash transmission system. The evildoers are hoping the person will send the money back before noticing that the check from Brewster Academy does not clear. A quick phone call to Brewster Academy confirmed my suspicion - they've had dozens of these checks reported, none are legitimate, and that bank account has been flagged for fraud so no check can be drawn on that account anyway. So I'm writing this blog so that anyone who gets a similar check, and who might search "Brewster Academy Check", will find this story, hopefully before losing hundreds or thousands of $$. The good news too is that the FBI and Yahoo have apparently been investigating this for a while and they're tracking the evildoers who are apparently in New York. The sooner they can get these folks locked up, the better!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chip - Thank you for your warning. We in Princeton, NJ occasionally rent rooms to Univ. students. I was contacted by a very persistent TOmaz Gayle, with the exact introductory letter that you received. We had planned to rent to her (him?) but no money or contract had yet been exchanged. Now I receive a "check" on the check paper of a Bank in Houston Tx., with the imprint a nursing home in Willis Tx. They have no shame. The check was mailed from Evansville, KY. Princeton Univ. has warned us about dealing with Tomaz Gayle or a Patricia Muller. Is it so difficult for Yahoo and the FBI to locate the IP address of the computer generating these emails?

Anonymous said...

I just got the same check on Monday from the nursing home in Willis, TX for $3500. I also rent to Princeton University grad students. I called the FBI in Phila, then I called the police in Willis, TX. Then I called the Sheriff's office for Montgomery Co., TX and had a detective drive out to the nursing home. The name on the check is Amy Cox. There had recently been two patients named Cox who are now deceased. They told him. He also called the bank and that account is not valid. I also got it sent to me from Kentucky.
They keep emailing me asking me if I got "their" check yet. I told her no, you can just pay me in cash when you get here. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have a condo near the University of New England in Maine that I have rented out to Grad students. I received a request from Tomaz Gayle with the very same m.o. Thanks for this information. I intend to spread the word through a Condo Association network as well as Property Managers in the area.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're good. When I called the head of Princeton off-campus housing, she said someone (I guess you) had already contacted the necessary people. Thank you.

David said...

Thanks from one more landlord. I got an inquiry from this same person. It seemed suspicious, so I googled and found your blog. Thanks for saving me the time and trouble of dealing with this scam.

Anonymous said...

I'm expecting some cheque from someone named Jennifer Love who gave the same kind of email as yours. I was fooled completely as "her" english was far better. Thanks so much for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

Just checking the same id in the UMass area. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I got one from them as well and when confronted they threatened me

Daniel cohen said...

Thanks very much for your large information .And knowledge full description . I think it is Sus a topic that many kinds of people face many problems. thanks for this.
meeting people,

Anonymous said...

They are also reaching out to the unemployed offering a position. It was advertised as a "production manager assistant". Sure enough the check was from Brewster Academy. He is using the name Anthony Gevera and even has been texting me from a cell-phone. I haven't tried to deposit the check because thank-goodness I found this first. Total scammer!!!