Red flags in that vacation-rental request? Trust your gut

If you get a vacation rental request from an Oregonian with a Texas business address and Illinois driver’s license whose check is mailed to you from Ohio, you, um, might want to think twice about doing business with him.

Oh, and by the way, that check will likely be for more than the rental amount. Just cash the check and send him the difference. And, hey, keep some for yourself for your time.

A North Kitsap real estate agent — we’re not disclosing her name because she is a plaintiff in a protection order in another state — isn’t the first person to get caught in David Sisico’s tangled web. Ah, and what a tangled web it is.

Type “David Sisico” in an Internet search engine, and the name (real, made up, borrowed, stolen?) pops up in reference to similar alleged scams.

The local real estate agent reported her interaction with “Sisico” to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, the Bainbridge Island Police Department, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Here’s what went down.

On May 22, the real estate agent — she lives on Bainbridge but works in North Kitsap — listed a Poulsbo vacation rental she owns on craigslist.com.

On May 24, she received an email from a “David Sisico” expressing interest in renting the home from June 13-20 for his honeymoon. “Am coming there with my wife and i [sic]. We are coming for honeymoon,” the email states. “Don’t hesitate to email me with your total cost for the whole 1 week.”

On May 26, the real estate agent emailed him the costs and a rental application, and asked for a copy of his driver’s license or other form of photo ID.

On May 31, a person claiming to be Sisico emailed that the payment was mailed, “however, there was a mistake on the check written over and above the requested amount,” the real estate agent reported. “David requested I send via Western Union [the] difference in the amount … This was when I suspected this was a scam.”

She played along. She emailed back that she couldn’t do anything until she received all proper documents, completed and signed, with a copy of a photo ID.

On June 10, after several emails back and forth, the real estate agent received a USPS Priority Mail pouch containing a check for $2,085 (the rental and deposit was $1,500). The USPS label stated it was sent from H&S Company, Inc., in Celina, Ohio. The check was written on an Allison Ranch Corporation check — the company is located in San Angelo, Texas — on an account at the First National Bank of Sonora, Texas.

“Sisico” later emailed and asked that the difference be sent to his travel agent, Dale Snyder, in Miamisburg, Ohio.

On June 12, she emailed Sisico that the “date has passed necessary to complete your reservation” and that she was unable to complete the reservation request.

She heard from him one last time: On June 14, warning her “[I] am not in caliber of whom you can cheat on ok … i work for C.T.U. and [my] bride work with the S.N.A. I Need to hear back from you before i make the right decision. Good luck.”

The real estate agent called the sheriff’s office.

Investigators called First National Bank in Sonora, Texas and were told the account was closed. The Herald left a phone message Aug. 24 with Allison Ranch Corporation which, according to online business directories, is in the “Airports, Flying Fields, and Airport Terminal Services” business. An email message was left with the owner of H&S Company in Celina, Ohio.

The real estate agent said local authorities couldn’t do anything about it because she didn’t lose any money. But the information was sent to the U.S. Postal Service, she said, because USPS was used in an attempt to commit fraud, a federal offense.”

Her only losses were time spent chasing a wild goose — or, in the case of Sisico, a likely ghost.

Detective Sgt. Scott Weiss of the Bainbridge Island Police Department, which also investigated the case, said consumers should look for red flags and trust their gut.

Some red flags, according to Weiss:

— The subject you’re corresponding with is involving multiple names and addresses. David Sisico gave his residential address as an apartment in Portland, Oregon; sent payment on a check belonging to a company in Texas; used USPS Priority Mail out of Ohio; asked that the difference in what he sent and what was requested be sent to another party

— You get a check for above the amount you requested — oops, the sender will write — and you’re asked to send the difference back but keep some for your time.

— The messages read as if they’re not written by the same person. In the emails from “Sisico,” some use proper English, grammar and punctuation, while others don’t. “It may be several different people trying to draw people in,” Weiss said.

— It appears to be too good to be true. “It’s likely not,” Weiss said.

Some things you can do to protect yourself:

— Check the Internet. “A lot of times when we get these reports, I Google the name and usually get those ‘Have you ever been scammed by this guy?’ websites,” Weiss said. “That’s something else someone can do if they have a computer — check the Internet.” Incidentally, the names David Sisico and Dale Snyder show up on several scam-alert websites. In several instances, the messages sent to the North Kitsap real estate agent are the same as those sent to others.

— Wait till the check clears. “We’ve had businesses on the island in the past, where it involved a piece of art in the store,” Weiss said. “Don’t send off the item until the check clears.”

— Protect your Social Security number and your credit. Go to http://www.ssa.gov and establish an account. “You generate your own password and login, that way your Social Security number is password protected,” Weiss said. “Go to the credit reporting agencies and set up a credit watch if you think your account has been compromised.”

— Contact police or, at least, the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The IC3, as it’s known, is a task force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. You can file a complaint online.

Weiss said that even though the real estate agent didn’t lose any money, she did the right thing going to authorities. “That’s the only way we can gather information on these people,” he said.

DIFFERENT YEARS, DIFFERENT RECIPIENTS, SAME MESSAGEThis is the first email received by the North Kitsap real estate agent from someone claiming to be “David Sisico.”

May 24, 2015: “Hello, Am David. Please let me know if there a place for a week 7 night available from { June 13 to 20 } or you can get back to me with any other date available at your rental JUNE, JULY OR AUGUST, I want you to email me if available with total cost for the whole 1 week 7night. Am coming there with my wife and i We are coming for honeymoon. No smoke, No drink, No pets. Don’t hesitate to email me with your total cost for the whole 1 week.”

This is an email received by a Washington member of the Timeshare User’s Group bulletin board service, http://www.tugbbs.com.

May 12, 2009: “Hi…my name is Mr David Sisico….Please let us know if there a place for a week night available from ( September 20 to 27 ) or any other time available at your resident. I want you to email me if available with total cost for the whole 1 week. am coming there with my wife and i We are coming for honeymoon. No smoke, No drink, No pets. Don’t hesitate to email me with your total cost for the whole 1 week.”

In response to the May 12, 2009 email, another timeshare owner wrote, “Boy, that Mr David..Sisico must be planning to get married and divorced really fast! He wanted to rent my place for a June honeymoon!

– See more at: http://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/property-management/marketing-vacant-units/red-flags-vacation-rental-request-trust-gut/#sthash.tNukJrKo.dpuf

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