June 29, 2008

How my roommate accidentally blew this month’s rent

Posted in life, scam tagged , at 5:58 pm by otherdeb

I didn’t want to write this post.

And I have my roommate’s permission to write it.

As some of you know, last weekend I was running security for a convention in New Jersey. Since I had most of the rent money for July budgeted for, but was still a bit tight, I had asked my ex and best friend, Marc, to pay for my hotel room on his card, and promised him I would pay him back from my next paycheck, on July 3rd. He agreed.

On Tuesday, my roommate told me that the money for her share of the rent would be cleared by her bank on Thursday. I said okay, prepared the check to send to her mother (long story, not really relevant here), and things were fine. Thursday, my roommate told me her check wouldn’t clear until Saturday. I asked if she had called the bank and she said that she had, and that when she pointed out that they had sent her a notice that the money would be clear on Thursday, she said they would investigate.

On Friday, I was hanging out online when she got home from work. She told me that the notice from the bank that came in the mail that day was that a check she had deposited was returned as “Altered/Fictitious.” Since her paychecks are automatically deposited, I asked what check she was talking about. She said she has received a check for some surveys she was supposed to take. I asked more questions, and finally dragged out of her that she had received a check for almost $5,000 with a letter from something called “Money & Shopping”. it claimed that the funds were to pay her for an assignment, and that the first part of the assignment was an evaluation of Moneygram, where she was to take the money and deposit it, then go to a Moneygram location and transfer the bulk of the money to “Pamela (Your Last Name), in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.”

Needless to say, this was a scam, and if my roommate had been thinking, she would have seen the many clues: The check was from a construction company in Atlanta, Georgia. The stamp on the original envelope was from Canada. The destination of the money was fictitious. Lots of things.

However, she didn’t. And the money she was planning to hand me for her share of the July rent was from this check. And she had taken about $2,000 out before the bank stopped the check and put a hold on her account. So I have to pay the July rent on my own, and I have to put off returning the hotel money to Marc until July 9th. Not a huge dealy, but a problem in that money is a hot button for Marc and to him this is just one more time I am breaking my word. And the fact that I have not broken my word to him in over a year cuts no ice. And Marc is not completely wrong, because there were many years where my word around money wasn’t really good.

When I realized exactly how screwed up this was, I talked to a lawyer friend, who suggested that my roommate call not only her bank, but the police, the FBI, and the three credit reporting agencies. Marc added that she should also contact the Postal Inspectors because this constitutes mail fraud. She has called the bank, and is going there Tuesday. The police have been called, and she has to call them back on Monday, and talk to the Detective Bureau. She also has to call the Postal Inspectors on Monday, and find out what they need her to do, and all three credit agencies.

She has proposed that, once this mess is straightened out, she sees if her employer will allow her to deposit her share of the rent directly into my checking account. I am not happy about this, but since I will be the one writing the rent checks as of August, it may be necessary so that I can keep a roof over my head, let alone hers. Her original suggestion had been that her whole paycheck be deposited into my account, and I give her an allowance, so to speak , but I refused that, since I don’t really want to become her keeper.

The interesting thing is that, while it inconveniences me no end, it still is only a bump on my horizon, as opposed to the boulder it is on hers. It means that, until the bank gives her back access to her funds, we’ll be living on my summer pay, which slows down my plans, but it by no means brings my plans to a halt.

I will keep this blog updated on what happens over this; partly because of my desire to be accountable, and partly as a warning to anyone who might even vaguely be tempted to take up one of these scam offers.

Sadly, however, I suspect there will always be people who look for shortucts to get out of messes they got themselves into in the first place.



  1. Carol said,

    I doubt very much that her employer will do such a deposit– but it’s possible that her bank will set up an automatic monthly transfer. Good luck!

  2. otherdeb said,

    @Carol: That is a great idea, because it ostensibly leaves her in control of her money, while making sure her share of the rent gets where it needs to. Thank you!

  3. Rafe said,

    When clue delivery fails, there’s the Orbital Anvil Delivery System

  4. otherdeb said,

    @Rafe: Thank you so much! I needed the laugh. And I really, really want one of those!

  5. Sharon said,

    Wow, tough situation to face. It sounds like getting the rent money in your account is the best solution. Well done for having the guts to make that call.

  6. otherdeb said,

    @ Sharon – Wow, Thanks for stopping by! And feel free to come again…

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, Carol came up with a great idea. I really don’t want to have all of her money coming into my account, because I really don’t want to end up being her keeper.

    That said, it’s going to take about two more years for my credit report to be clean enough for a prospective Landlord to look at and not laugh as he/she rejects it, so I need to make sure the roof I do have over my head stays there.

    But, yeah, integrity is the easiest thing to lose, and the hardest thing to rebuild after losing it.

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