Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Nigerian Landlord

Shortly after I posted my fanciful online encounter with Anya in “From Russia With Love”, I became embroiled in a REAL online scam.

Back Story:
We have our old house listed for sale in town. In the last couple of days we received four phone calls from “renters” asking about our house for rent advertised on CraigsList. Our house isn't for rent. One of the callers thought there was something suspicious about the ad after e-mailing the "agent" listed in the ad and receiving a reply from Nigeria!

We subsequently found that apparently two fake ads had been placed on CraigsList which were later flagged and deleted before we could view them. But shortly a third ad was posted – there it was, complete with pictures of our lovely home advertised for rent for $700 deposit. The only contact provided was the “spoofed” e-mail address of the listing Realtor.

I decided to pose as a prospective renter for my own house under the adopted name of Jay Edgar Hoover. I have copied my e-mail exchange with Nigerian scammer into an Adobe Acrobat document which you can read in it's entirety here. (My side of the correspondence is colored blue.)

After my "application was accepted", the guy in Nigeria actually called my cell phone asking for "Jay"... not thinking, I told them they had the wrong number. Damn, stupid mistake! But eventually they called back. I told them I didn't know how to wire money to Nigeria - In actuality I was stalling them; I wanted to have my tape recorder by the phone to record the conversation. I heard lots of voices in the background, it sounded like a classic "boiler room" operation.

Alas the scammers apparently caught on that THEY were instead being scammed; no further e-mails nor phone calls were received.

Conclusion:
As it turns out, one of the couples who called us from the fake ad about renting our place turned out to be genuinely interested. If our house doesn't sell by the end of the month, my Nigerian Landlord may have done me a nice service by referring us to some potentially suitable renters!! (I wonder if I should tell him the place rents for $1,100/month instead of the $700 he was asking for?) ~ Nahhhh!

I'm on -the-road this weekend. Hope to catch up to your blogs and comments on my return Monday. - R

26 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

So they must have a henchman in the US who took the picture of your home and maybe verified it was unoccupied. But don't potential tenants actually inspect the property before handing over any cash? Were they hoping someone wouldn't do this?

MartyrMom said...

People can be pretty gullible or greedy or just plain dumb. $700 isn't a lot of money for rent, even for these economic times.
My ex daughter in law got into a scam herself.
The guy says he lives blah blah and needs someone to work for him. He will send the cash to her and in return give her half of the proceeds.
I told her to get off the computer NOW. I told her not to give out her bank account.
As it turned out the guy would send money orders and she would put them in her bank and western union funds to him. If the MO was 100 she would WU him 50.
She gets a shit load of money orders totaling $3500. They were postal MO's so I told her to take them to the PO and sure enough....they were fake MOs....evidently banks do not check to see if they are real or not.....then the $$ is gone and your left with insufficient funds for Western Union and $0 ......

If it's seem to good to be true...it usually is

DJan said...

Ooops! I left a comment on your previous post thinking this one wasn't working correctly. Anyway, I hope that Nigerian scam artist did you a favor!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas Not sure if you have Craigslist available to you out in the Congo... but they lifted the images of our house from where we were listing it "for sale" elsewhere on Craigslist.

The scam explains that the house is listed for sale but to "ignore" the signs as they had to leave town quickly. The people who alerted us to the scam had actually driven by the house and became suspicious. Apparently this is an often used scam.

MartyrMom That is a very common scam, usually the checks (often cashier's checks) are completely counterfeit. Sometimes the victiem of the scam gets arrested for trying to deposit forged checks... you were smart to have the post office check on those funds.

Djan Your comment came though, not sure why the page didn't display for you.

You've Got to Be Kidding Me said...

Same thing happened to my girlfriend. She didn't know about the duplicate postings until the FBI showed up at her door! No lie! This was just this past winter.

GutsyWriter said...

Now you worry me, as we plan on renting our house in Naples, Florida, since we haven't sold our CA one. Those Nigerian scammers, do you think they live in the US?

PeterDeMan said...

Robert, that story was, as they say in the business (not entirely sure what business), a real hoot! I really enjoyed it.

Entre Nous said...

Yikes, even the 'butt itvh' didn' make him skip a beat... amazing. The Nigerian thing is out of control for sure.

Artist and Geek said...

Sometimes one dislikes the internet.

I hope that whatever regulatory changes are coming soon, will include fraud and privacy protection. One can only hope.

Kay Dennison said...

Yikes!!!!!! Glad you caught it!!!

Marylinn Kelly said...

I am glad you were alerted...reminder of my scamming bill collector...I get very, very cranky about these attempts, spending a good bit of time thinking, "How dare you..." My outlook is naive in that I believe creative scammers who put their minds to honest endeavor could help make the world a better place, could help us find answers. And if wishes were horses...I live in an alternate universe.

Rain said...

It is amazing the scams out there. Definitely one to watch out for since we have a vacation rental in Tucson

The Mother said...

Gheezsh. You don't expect this kind of stuff on your own property! It's amazing that you even figured it out.

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-"scamming the scammers" must be a satisfying experience.

Marylinn-I too have always wondered, especially with computer hackers. I saw a fascinating documentary on it, mostly brilliant teenagers, who form online "gangs", cracking codes, bringing sites down. Imagine, "geek gangs". :)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kidding Not surprised. I have heard of people be arrested for depositing these "forged" checks.

Gutsy No, they mostly live outside the country; they look for online advertising for houses for sale or rent then pitch their scams on online ads trying to get people to wire the "deposit" money. But when YOU advertise your place, you need to have good contact information where people can reach you.

Peter Glad you enjoyed it; Now that this story is out, I am getting feedback that this is a very common scam. Someone said that almost half the ads on Craigslist may be scams to solicit deposit money.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Entre Nous It is out of control. I saw a program on TV where these guys are considered "heroes" in Nigeria, they are looked up to like we idolize sports players.

Artist Good luck with regulations... these scams have no borders and therefore, no jurisdiction.

Kay Well it was the four "prospective renters" who alerted us, otherwise we would never have known.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Marylinn I used to say that about my few welfare clients who would go to all these great lengths to try to scam the system. If they put half that much energy into legitimate work, they would probably earn big bucks. Who knows!

Rain Yes, with a vacation rental they could try to pose as you and solicit deposits to "hold" your place. Again, having good contact information for you, phone number is best... the scammers usually try to pull this off using only e-mail.

Dr. Mom Yes, well again, people wanting to rent the house, who actually drove by and saw our sign and phone number, called us. They were suspicious that the rent was too low for one thing. The two who wrote e-mail inquiries and receive the crazy Nigerian response pretty much knew it was bogus and called us.

Artist Yeah it was fun to try to turn the table on them. I blew it early on, though, I should have been more subtle. Actually a good deal of "hacking" is accomplished through conventional means; tricking people into revealing passwords and the like. More on this later.

KleinsteMotte said...

All this is still in infancy. We are naive when it comes to safety.

Madame DeFarge said...

I'm never sure why anyone ever falls for these obvious cons. It beggars belief, but maybe one is born every minute. Good for you to get one back though.

Robert the Skeptic said...

KleinsteMotte I know, most are just derivations of time-honored old scams, just put on the Internet. Amazing people continue to fall for them.

Madame Apparently enough people fall for these that it remains lucrative... Else why would they continue?

Murr Brewster said...

Oh My Gawd. How could you have led those poor Christian people on? You're going to hell, Robert. There will be a $700 deposit, cleaning fee non-refundable.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Murr Damn... that's what I get for allowing them to check references.

secret agent woman said...

Wow, that's a new one! I love that he kept talking about your Godliness.

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-I try to be as careful as possible, check links before I get there etc., but it's a matter of time...
Any further info would be much appreciated.

"The question is not whether I'm paranoid, it's whether I'm paranoid enough." (J.E.Hoover???)

Nance said...

I'd heard about that scam and I find that stuff fascinating! Who are these people, how often does their scam work, and why haven't they been caught or shut down yet? Love the Jay Edgar Hoover bit; wished you could have played them a little longer!

Mary Witzl said...

That correspondence is hilarious! And it's absolutely classic, too -- there's always a lot of references to God and the English tends to be very proper, but stilted and antiquated. Obviously, they didn't pick up on your wit either -- such a sad waste!