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Date of Issue: June 16, 2005

Internet vacation rental, bank scam comes to AMI

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office in Anna Maria has reported an apparent Internet rental scam that could cost Island property owners and rental agents thousands of dollars if they fall for the deal.

On June 6, the MCSO reported that an Anna Maria woman said she had been contacted via the Internet about a unit she has for rent.

The prospective renter said in an e-mail that he only had a check for $6,500, which was well above the deposit amount requested and the rental price. He forwarded the check and asked the owner to cash the check, deduct for the rental fee, then return the balance to him in a money order.

Suspecting something amiss, the owner contacted MCSO Deputy John Damato in Anna Maria, who investigated the situation. Damato found that the check had been drawn from the bank in California by a Canadian man, but for an amount far less than $6,500.

The MCSO has begun an investigation into the incident, and Damato advised all property renters to be wary of similar activity.

Anyone receiving a request to cash a check and return funds should contact the MCSO in Anna Maria at 708-8899, or their local law enforcement.

Southtrust Bank scam

At the same time that the apparent Internet rental scam took place, many Islanders have received an unsolicited e-mail that appears to be from Southtrust Bank.

The e-mail says the bank's software is being upgraded and they need you to input your customer information, including account number, pin number and password in an e-mail reply to maintain the account.

Don't be fooled, said a spokesperson at the real Southtrust Bank headquarters in North Carolina.

"This is an Internet scam. Don't give them anything," said Angela Parker. In addition, she said, "We've merged with Wachovia Bank." She said the bank has turned over information on the scam to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Anyone who receives such an e-mail is asked to forward it to abuse@southtrust.com.