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A Near Miss... - Private Investigator - Albuquerque, New Mexico

It's never a very good sign when a prospective tenant is in too great a hurry to get moved into your rental property.

A couple from the midwest applied to rent a home in the southwest, representing that the husband had just been promoted to run a sales territory covering the southern half of the state, and that his employer was paying for his move and for the lease on the home. They were in a burning hurry to move in.

EMRA, Inc. investigators were asked to do a background security investigation on the couple.

EMRA Inc's background security investigation revealed a number of potential problems, including judgments for small bad debts, the fact that their midwest home was in foreclosure, and in spite of their supposed strong earning power, they had a two-year-old bankruptcy. Nonetheless, the prospects had emailed an image of a check they had in hand from the employer, made out to the property manager, to pay the desposit and first and last month of the lease, and they "seemed like a really nice couple."

EMRA Inc inquired if the property manager had spoken directly to the employer issuing the lease check, and they had not. Therefore, a copy of the check image was requested, and this was emailed to EMRA. A number of problems were immediately apparent. First, there was a bank name but no state/bank shorthand in the upper right corner of the check. Second, the street name in the company name and address on the check was not capitalized. And last, there were no routing or account numbers visible along the bottom of the check, as this part of the check was covered up in the image. It appeared at a glance that the "check" was a forgery and that the prospective tenants were being dishonest. EMRA Inc requested a new check image with nothing covering it and, sure enough, there were no routing or account numbers.

In the interest of a thorough background investigation, more research was done. It turned out that the address on the check was not a valid business address for ANY office of the employer. Working backwards from that address, and from the name of the bank on which the check was supposed to have been drawn, Emra, Inc. investigators were actually able to identify the name and bank of the payroll company used by the prospect's claimed employer. The check was a complete fake, of course, but this information clarified why this particular address and bank name had been selected. The prospect had received such checks in the past, because they used to work for the claimed employer, and had gotten payroll checks from them. It never occurred to them that things like employee housing would be paid from an expense account rather than a payroll account, and that payroll was paid by a separate company. So they tried to forge a check from the payroll company rather than from the employer proper, and did a pretty miserable job of that.

Had the property manager trusted and accepted these tenants, and had they not done a background security investigation, it could have taken months to evict them, and no money would ever have been received on the rental.

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