BROOKLYN,NY–The Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (FIUTT) is warning of an “emerging trend within the tourism sector” where fraudsters are used strategy to acquire funds hotel funds statement; the FIUTT said it had noticed cases whereby a fraudulent cheque, in particular a mailed-in cashier’s cheque, is credited to a hotel’s bank account for alleged bookings and subsequently the “issuer” of the cheque would contact the payee/hotel requesting a partial or full refund of the cheque amount.
“The request for a partial or full refund is usually made before the clearing period for the cheque is completed. This appears to be an emerging trend within the tourism sector,” the FIUTT said, adding that an email is sent to a hotel in Trinidad and Tobago from a ‘potential customer’ who may be residing abroad or who purports to be living abroad.
“The email is for a booking on behalf of a client. Usually, the name of a known/famous person is used, and if an internet search is done, the name will be found, for a stay at the hotel, for approximately two weeks. A quotation is provided by the hotel to the email by which the booking was made.
“When the hotel/business provides the bank details for the payment to be remitted via a wire transfer, the booking is confirmed via email by the ‘potential customer.’ Next, the local financial institution with whom the hotel holds an account receives a mailed-in cashier’s cheque from the ‘potential customer’ drawn in foreign currency from a foreign financial institution.”
The FIUTT said that for the most part, the cheque would look “authentic, complete with watermarks, stamps, and signatures” and that the amount on the cheque exceeds the quotation given for the booking.”
The FIUTT said that the ‘potential customer’ then emailed the hotel detailing that due to an oversight, the reservation was overpaid.
“The ‘potential customer’ explains that it is now too late to cancel the entire payment and requests that the difference be refunded urgently. The ‘potential customer’ may have other convincing reasons why the amount on the cheque is more than the quoted cost.
“The hotel receives the banking details to refund the overpayment, which is now to a third-party account as opposed to the issuer of the cheque. As the cheque is drawn on a foreign bank, the local bank would not normally make the amount on the cheque available before it is cleared, which may take up to 28 days.”
The FIUTT warned that unsuspecting hotels, which may be under pressure from the customer, would not wait for the cheque to be cleared and remit the difference to the ‘potential customer.’
“Unknowing that the cheque sent for clearing is counterfeit, the hotel has been scammed into remitting monies that cannot be recovered,” the FIUTT said, adding that to protect businesses from overpayment scams, “always make sure that any funds paid into the account are irrevocable before making a refund.
“Ensure that the cheque is cleared before returning excess funds,” the FIUTT added.