Bad Cheque Scam Hits Alberta
| June 18, 2012
A bad cheque scam has hit Alberta.
The scam begins when an unsuspecting real estate professional with a property listed is sent a signed purchase contract, a copy of some form of identification, a bank statement and a cheque or bank draft for an amount usually much larger than would be expected for an initial deposit. The fraudster claims to be from outside of the country and is acting through an intermediary of some kind, and requests that the initial deposit cheque be deposited into a lawyer’s trust account. When the cheque is deposited, the fraudster will back out of the deal and ask for the deposit back, minus legal fees or any penalties the lawyer may impose. Of course, the original cheque was fraudulent, and when the deposit is refunded, it will cause a shortfall in the lawyer’s trust account.
In this scam, unsuspecting real estate professionals are used as a conduit to forward the bad cheque (initial deposit) to an unsuspecting lawyer. Protect yourself and your brokerage, and always be wary of unusual deals, particularly when they come via the mail or electronic means, and you do not actually meet or talk to the principle party.
If you ever receive an email or any documents that you suspect may be a part of a scam, inform your broker and feel free to forward any information to RECA at email@example.com.
The same scam has used in B.C. and in Ontario.
(Note added June 20, 2012: RECA has also been made aware of a situation where a fraudulent deposit cheque was paid into the brokerage’s trust account—rather than a lawyer’s—and the brokerage was then asked for a refund of the deposit, with instructions to send the money overseas. Upon further investigation, it was determined the deposit cheque was a forgery.)