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Don’t get fooled by B&B scam
THE owner of a Beaminster bed and breakfast is warning other businesses not to fall for a scam which could have cost her thousands of pounds.
And after being the subject of an attempt to get her to part with her own cash after being paid for a booking with what was either a stolen or fraudulent cheque, Hazel Ryan says she has reluctantly decided never to accept more overseas bookings.
Police and trading standards’ officers are asking traders to have nothing to do with unusual requests which involve transferring money between countries.
Dubbed ‘money muling’ the scam relies on a innocent victim transferring their ‘clean’ money to a third party in another country, often after having received an overpayment for a booking or for goods being sold via the internet.
The scam relies on delays in processing foreign currencies and when the original payment turns out to be a fraud, the victim’s money has already gone to the scammer.
Mrs Ryan, who runs the picturesque Courtyard bed and breakfast in Beaminster Square, received a booking from a man in the Ukraine for himself and his wife. Having confirmed that she had a room available, a cheque arrived drawn from a French bank for vastly more than the amount to pay for the break in Beaminster.
The ‘guest’ then contacted Mrs Ryan and said that there had been a mistake and that the cheque was not only for her charges, but also for travelling costs which should have been paid to a travel agent.
He asked Mrs Ryan to pay the money into her own bank account, take what she needed and pay the remainder, more than £2,000 to the so-called agent.
Highly suspicious, Mrs Ryan did an internet search on the name and address given and it emerged connected to a scam.
Amazingly even after Mrs Ryan had told the man she could not keep the booking, the conman rang her again, asking her to pay in the cheque and wire the money back.
She contacted Beaminster police, who put out an alert on the Ringmaster message system to warn other businesses.
Now Mrs Ryan, says she will not entertain bookings made from abroad.
“I am just not interested, because of the risks,” she said. “It is a bit like anything, a few people spoil things for the rest.
“It has made me see how vulnerable I was. I would warn everybody to be very careful.”
PC Tim Poole of the Beaminster Safer Neighbourhood Team said: “I would strongly suggest that no-one sends money to third parties unless they have instigated the process themselves and they know to whom the money will be sent.
“Treat any proposition outside usual business dealings with suspicion. If in doubt, leave well alone or contact Dorset Trading Standards.”