Friday, March 19, 2010
The Eastern Shore Real Estate industry has received a little excitement this week. Unfortunately, it is not the kind they wanted.
On Saturday February 28th, Long & Foster Realtor Norman Knight received an email from a Mr. Zing of a prominent Chinese company. Mr. Zing inquired about buying a $675,000 piece of property. Knight worked up a contract for Mr. Zing and sent it back to him. The contract was returned to Knight signed electronically.
What followed was truly unbelievable. Mr. Zing said he wanted to buy the property without even seeing it. The Chinese stranger sent a check for $106,000 to Long & Foster Real Estate when the deposit was only $10,000.
The check was from a real Canadian law firm, with a real bank account, the correct bank account number was on the check, from the correct bank and with the appropriate signatures.
Knight then received instructions to use $10,000 for the deposit and to send the remaining $96,000 to a silent partner in China. The money was to be used to purchase Chinese decorations, appliances and furniture to decorate the house.
Knight knew there was something wrong with this picture. He immediately called his attorney David Rowan in Accomac. Rowan investigated the matter and found the ruse.
The check was fake. It was stolen from Cassels, Brock & Blackwell, one of the largest law firms in Canada. The trick was the real estate company was supposed to deposit the bogus check and the transaction would have gone through. The law firm then would have realized an unauthorized $106,000 check had just been drawn against their accounts. Having only the $10,000 from the deposit and having sent the $96,000 to China, Long & Foster Real Estate would have been liable for $96,000 to Cassels, Brock & Blackwell Law Firm. The check was the 9th identical fake check reported to the law firm that week.
Other Eastern Shore Realty companies that received similar offers from Mr. Zing this week were Mason Davis in Onancock, Coldwell Banker Harbor Realty and Ralph Dodd and Associates. The white collar crime is believed to have originated from Nigeria, which is a known hub for cyber crime.
"This is one of the hazards of computer and the internet," warns Rowan. "At one point they did have a real check, and they have the computer software to manipulate who the check goes to. It is important to remember in any situation like this, if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is."