This happened to me this morning. I’m quite sure I’m not the first to see this, but unlike most people, I have the power of a fairly busy website to help get the word out. And keep people out of potential trouble.
My wife and I were browsing home rentals in our area. One particular home in a desirable neighborhood in this area stood out to us because, well… it was cheaper than usual. It was listed for $1000/month – which was quite cheap compared to the average in this area. Interestingly, we saw another ad for the same house on Craigslist for more like $1700. So, red flag #1.
This morning, I get an email back in response to my question about the square footage of the house. Here is a snippet from this email:
May the blessings of the Lord be with you, thanks very much for your message of interest in my property.
The house located at: [REMOVED FOR OBVIOUS REASONS] Is a 4 br 2 ba Single-Family Home and is currently available for rent. Which I own and occupied before leaving for West Africa-Nigeria; On the contrary, we have left on a self Mission, following God’s call to preach the Word and let the people of all Nations hear about him, so we are on the mission to preach the good news of our Lord; for all the nations to hear about him.
We are looking for a very well-behaved, clean and honest tenant to rent out our house. We will like you to give us your word and promise us that you will take good care of our house so that we will be happy when we come to visit you in the future. We are willing to work on any flexible plan you may have on your term of renting, long or short term or month to month.
I had a Realtor company help me get a tenant, but they were handling things too professionally and were extorting potential tenants, so I took the contract of their hands and tried doing this my self, but I couldn’t find any tenant while I was still in the state as at last week.
The email went on to provide a Nigerian cell phone number to call. It also attached pictures of the house… but interestingly, they were the very same ones which were already public on Craigslist.
The email was signed with a full American name.
I didn’t even need to look further. I recognized immediately that this was VERY likely a scam. Nigeria? What are the chances?
But, just to confirm, I pulled up the county property records online and looked up the address. And… surprise! The homeowner’s name is NOT the same as the one who emailed me.
Not only that… but this email came to me from a Yahoo.com address. The name on it was simply “Edd Edd”, and the address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Certainly has nothing to do with the name he signed the email as. And, Yahoo.com is well known to be a source of VERY high spam. Seriously, if you’re a legitimate user who uses Yahoo…. stop it. You’re in very bad company. Switch to Gmail.
So, here are the red flags:
- For a presumed American, his English grammar is pretty horrible.
- Rent was much lower than average. Obviously designed to get attention. And it did.
- Realtor companies aren’t extorting potential tenants. This person is.
- Emailed from an anonymous Yahoo email address.
- Offered no information which wasn’t already in a public listing.
- Official county records don’t match up.
If somebody were naive enough to follow through with something like this, think about the damage that could be caused here.
- If you wired them a security deposit, you’d never see it again. Guaranteed. He would promise to send the keys after you wire the funds, but you’d obviously get no keys. And, you’d be kinda curious why somebody else was already moving into the house.
- The application would likely ask for your bank information, social security – everything. All the things typical for doing credit checks, etc. Think about the identity theft possible with that information.
Craigslist is a free place for people to self-list their homes. This means that anybody, anywhere in the world, can post an ad for a home for rent… and there is no policing of it.
So, do your due diligence. Work to verify information the supposed “landlord” provides to ensure they are who they say they are.
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