Beware of Con Artists

Do con artists ever defraud B&B’s? Absolutely.

A man named Ali Patrick Pahlavi arrived at an upscale Denver B&B on September 29, 2000. He told the innkeeper/owner that his luggage and traveling money had been stolen. Would it be possible to borrow money and have the innkeeper’s finest room on credit? His family had been notified and as the billionaire nephew of the late Shah of Iran, he was certainly “good for it.”

The man was suave and charming – as are most con artists.

The innkeeper loaned the man $500 and checked him into his room. He also sold him clothes on credit from his wife’s designer store and he gave him meals on credit from the inn’s restaurant.

Mr. Pahlavi was overwhlemed by the innkeeper’s kindness. They began talking about the hospitality business and Mr. Pahlavi decided to buy the inn.

The prospective owner requested that the innkeeper clear his calendar and rebook in-coming guests to other facilities since he planned to begin remodelling as soon as his attorneys worked out a deal.

Mr. Pahlavi became the inn’s own resident.

Time passed and the innkeeper became suspicious. Money had been advanced to his guest and by November, Mr. Pahlavi had run up quite a bill.

The innkeeper did some belated checking and found that a man matching Mr. Pahlavi’s description had defrauded people in Washington D.C. He went to the police and Mr. Pahlavi was arrested.

He pled guilty in a Denver court and was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

The B&B owner unfortunately went out of business.

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Most con-artists are not nearly as destructive as the man who defrauded the innkeeper in Denver.

A con artist who is targeting a B&B will typically makes a reservation for several rooms. Instead of giving you a credit card, he will offer to mail a corporate check as payment for the rooms. When the check arrives, it will often for an excessive amount. If you call the “businessman,” the con artist will pretend to be surprised. He will then apologize and tell you that the accounting office overpaid the amount due. Would it be possible for you to deposit the check and refund the difference?

If this ever happens to you, SIT ON THE CHECK UNTIL IT CLEARS before giving a refund. The fraud in this particular scenario is that the con artist is hoping that you’ll refund money before the bank tells you that the check is counterfeit.

Wait until the bank clears the check.

You’d be amazed at how many people there are who believe that the receipt you get when you deposit a check at a bank is confirmation that the money has actually been deposited to your account.

Unless the check in question was drawn on the same bank that you have an account in, it will take time for the check to be processed and for the amount to be transferred to your account. The receipt you get at a bank is only an acknowledgement of a pending deposit.

Scam artists are counting on your honesty and gullibility to pull off this scam. If you give them a refund for the “difference” you will be out of money. The conman will disappear and nobody will ever arrive to honor the “reservation” because the entire reservation was a scam.

In time you’ll either get phone call or a letter from the bank telling you that the check you deposited was no good.

By then, it’ll be too late.

Bottom line? Verify deposits on personal checks, business checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, traveler’s checks, and mail orders before you issue a refund. Take the person’s name and address and offer to mail a refund once the bank has verified the deposit. Anyone who demands an immediate refund should be suspect.

P.S. A variation of the, oops-we-overpaid-you and could you please give us a refund scam is this. The business person books several rooms but oh my goodness, gosh, and golly – the business retreat/seminar has been CANCELLED.

We’re so sorry and we’ll gladly book you at another time but in the meanwhile could you please refund the amount paid?

2 thoughts on “Beware of Con Artists”

  1. All of these scams play on greed. The greed of the person who is about to get conned. They expect you to be so overwhelmed by a corporate retreat wanting to book your whole inn for a week that you will turn off the rational part of your brain. If somebody offers you something that sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
    Steve Wirt
    Wine Country Cabins Bed and Breakfast in the Finger Lakes
    and Inngenious Bed and Breakfast Website Promotion

  2. News has gone around enough that many people are now aware of the scam of people trying to reserve rooms and sending payment by certified check but having the payment be too much, then asking for part of the overpayment back, hoping that it will be sent out before it is discovered that the original check was not valid.
    A new version has developed which is the same basic idea but is now being run under the disguise as being a legitimate travel agency. They even list credentials of a legitimate travel agency, but the scammer does not actually work for the agency. Here’s a portion of the actual email.
    scam email wrote:
    Dear Sir/Madame,
    We are running an authorized and the most trustworthy travel and guide agent at Bunaken, Sulawesi Island and Bali Island, Indonesia. I can recommend your rooms to our loyal clients from Japan, Mr. . He gives me order and authority fully to arrange his vacation well-designed. He has a surprise planning to have vacation with his family (5 person) that’s way he asked me to prepare the reservation, flight, passport & fiscal etc. He also want to pay 100% deposit in advance to any reservations I am looking for, not just 30-50% payment in advance. So there’s no need to balance the remainder upon their arrival. I also explained them this would be non-refundable funds when they’ll make any cancellation for doing 100% payment in advance.
    As always, if it sounds too good to be true…be overly cautious.
    Steve Wirt
    Wine Country Cabins Bed and Breakfast in the Finger Lakes
    and Inngenious Bed and Breakfast Website Promotion

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