Rental Scams on Craigslist-Part 2

When I decided to move, I, of course, thought that Craigslist is the right place.  I must tell you I encountered a lot of Rental Scams there.  Since I am absolutely curious, I decided to investigate some of the more common rental scams and see what I can find out.  I put my “Nancy Drew” shoes on and went for it.

I created a fake persona and a fake email address.  Here is the information I used:

Name:     Trudi Joy Bowden
Address:  43 Umoron (get it?) St., #13
Employer Info: Scammerscout Accountants, INC.  5553 Preezon Circle, #666.
 

I sent the following message to a few rental listings that sounded too good to be true:

Hello,

I would be interested in finding out a little bit more about the property and possibly stopping by to take a look at it.  What it a deposit?  What is the squire footage?  What are the lease terms?

Thank you.

Trudi B.

Almost immediately, I received my first response.  A person called himself ” jimenez Frank”.

Re: $900 / 3br – Single-Family Home3bedroom2bath (Huntington Beach, CA)

Hello
I can see you are interested in the ad I have pasted, I am currently in West Africa where I work as a volunteer with the VOICE OF CHILDREN MINISTRIES,INC.here is the site for more detail about why I am here in Africa..(http://www.vocministries.org/ )..I spent less time in the States so I could not get a hold on any Realtor to handle this rent issue, although it was when I knew how long we are going to stay in Africa that I decided to rent out the house…. However, the initial plan was to sale out the house. which I tried, but sometimes the agents inflates the price and it takes longer to sell i am telling you this incase if you find the house on another website, that is the old advert So I need a tenant to take care of it but since  I am out of the state now,I have received some proposals regarding the rent because it is located in a very good area  of Huntington Beach, but I still have to make sure it is rented out to someone who can take good care of it… It includes facilities such as water and  heat laundry facilities,air condition,internet and telephone access  and a car park and other necessary facilities,also comes with trash collection,pets are allowed as well as long as they are not destructive. so if you know you are capable of the task,get back to me so that I can provide you with some questions that I would want you to answer.below is the location,
XXXX XXXXXXXX Circle,
Huntington Beach CA

I had to investigate every bit of information!  I visited www.vocministries.org, which is a real website for a real Ministry.  And there it was, on the website’s home page, a “Scam Alert”:

SCAM ALERT: Please be aware that individuals who place rental property ads on CraigList with our website and claim to be volunteering for us in Africa are NOT in any way affliated to us because we DO NOT have anyone (name irrelevant)  in Africa volunteering for us. They are outright scammers. To avoid being a victim of their devious and unconscionable acts, please DO NOT respond to ads in such fashion; use local landlords whom you can speak to or meet in person. For more information contact us at 706 662 7258 during business days and hours.]

The scammers really DO think that we are a bunch of gullible people.  But I am sure they have reasons to.  I am wondering how many people actually get sucked into these types of scams.  So,  I wanted to mess with this person.  I responded:

Thank you so much for such a quick response.  Yes! Yes!  I am extremely interested and ready to move ASAP!  Let me know what we need to do to get started.  I have been at my current place for 10 years.  My current landlord decided to sell the property and unfortunately, I have to move. Your home seems perfect for me and my child.  I am absolutely capable of taking great care of your property.

When is the property available?  What is needed for me to move in?  How long will I be able to rent your home for?  I am willing to make a move within 1 week.

Oh, what is your name?  I think it is Frank, that’s what your email address says.   Am I correct?

Trudi B

“Jimenez Frank” responded quickly with “Rent Questionnaire” (sigh):

You are welcome,  It is good to hear from you w孩th this detail.The house is vacant now and all the utilities are included in the month rent. Below  are some questions that I need you to answer ,so that we can discuss further.You can go check the neighborhood and get back to me for  further discussion.It is available for a  long lease as I intend buying a new home  on getting back to the state.

RENT QUESTIONNAIRE
1)Your Full Name?
2)Your Full Address & Phone Number?
3)Are you married?
4)How many people will be living in the house?
5)Do you have a pet?
6)Do you have a car?
7)Occupation?
8)how long lease are you looking for?
9)How soon do you intend moving in?
10)Reason for relocating?

Looking forward to hear from you with all this details so that I can  have it in my file incase of issuing the receipt and contacting you. Await your reply so we can discuss on how to get the document and  the key to you.

I obliged:

Thank you for your response.  Below are the answers to your questions:

RENT QUESTIONNAIRE
1)Your Full Name? Trudi Joy Bowden
2)Your Full Address & Phone Number? 43 Umoron St., Apt. #13, Tustin, CA 92770
3)Are you married? No
4)How many people will be living in the house? 2, I and my daughter
5)Do you have a pet? No
6)Do you have a car? Yes
7)Occupation? Accountant
8)how long lease are you looking for? Long term
9)How soon do you intend moving in? Within two weeks
10)Reason for relocating? My landlord sold a house and I have to move immediately.

Please let me know what I have to do to take a look at the house.

Trudi

Almost immediately, I received an email with a subject line “Tenant Approval”.  By this point, it is almost laughable to me.  I imagine this crook sitting at a sweatshop impatiently awaiting for people to fall for this scam.

Thanks for the mail,i mean utilities stated  are included in the month rent and we would like to send the following document to you,to the address you sent to us and the tracking number will be sent to you so that you can possibly occupy our house, Please once again send you your current address and phone number to avoid wrong shipping of the keys and documents, we are giving you this base on trust and do not disappoint us and I promise you that, you will love the house. So i am with the below document here with me. you will need to make the first month rent of $900 and the Security Deposit  of $500 will be used for the shipping of the keys and the Documents to the address you have provided to us earlier.The total of $1400 the payment will be made Via Western Union money transfer.You can do that in any Grocery Store or Walmalt

Here are the contents of the document.

1) Entrance and the rooms Keys
2)Paper/Permanent house form
3)The house documentary file.
4)Payment Receipt

So please do get back to me today so that I will let you know the next step to take concerning the payment. I await your reply ASAP. Regard and God bless you!!! You can call me on my cellphone# +2347031302181 once you make the payment so that i can proceed with the shipment of the keys and document to your current address.

Yeah, right.  But, in the name of my investigation, I respond:

Okay.  Please instruct me on what to do. Where do I send money?  What is your name?  I think I will need all of that info to send money via Western Union.

You can send the documents to:

Trudi Joy Bowden
43 Umoron St., Apt. #13,
Tustin, CA 92770

For any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at ( 330) 435-8977

Trudi

I didn’t have to wait long for “the payment information”:

HERE IS THE PAYMENT INFORMATION

RECEIVER’S NAME: Frank.Jimenez
RECEIVER’S ADDRESS:34 James Oni
CITY:ISOLO
STATE:LAGOS.
COUNTRY :NIGERIA
ZIP 23401
Get back to me with the following detail as soon as the payment is made,so that I can proceed in sending the package to you.
SENDER’S NAME:
SENDER’S ADDRESS”
AMOUNT SENT:
MTCN:
TEST QUESTION? In God
ANSWER:We Trust
`  I will be waiting to hear`from you with the Payment details.
Remain blessed

And, of course, I just can’t wait to send him my money.  Not! I came up with a random number and forwarded that information to this scammer:

Frank,

Below is the payment information:

SENDER’S NAME: Trudi Joy Bowden
SENDER’S ADDRESS”43 Umoron St., Apt. #13, Tustin, CA 92770
AMOUNT SENT: $1400.00
MTCN: 7025567985
TEST QUESTION? In God
ANSWER:We Trust

When should I expect the keys and other stuff?

Thank you.

Trudi

I wasn’t sure he would respond, but the next day I got the following email from him:

Hello Trudi,
How are you doing today,Hope all is well with you…
i just came back from the western union outlet and the money was reported invalid,so i will want you to check the number and get back to me with the right number.i hope to read from you soonest.
Frank

Hehehe! Let me play with you a little more!

I am so sorry, I think I have a dyslexia.  LOL  The number is not 7025567985, it is 7025567958.  So sorry…
Let me know when you receive it and when you send the keys and all that other stuff.  Thank you so much for being so patient.

Trudi

Well, I was thinking that the scammer got a hint, but no… I got an email from him again:

Hello Trudi,
i just came back from the western union outlet and the money was reported invalid,so i will want you to check the number and get back to me with the right number.i hope to read from you soonest.
Frank

Seriously? I wanted to email him again with the wrong number and continue messing with him, but instead, I asked him a few questions:

Frank,

And you will never get a payment from me, because I never sent it.  I am doing a research on scammers like you.  But I do have a few questions…

Do you work for a company that scams people or do you operate on your own?

Do you actually make money doing what you are doing?  Is it your full-time job or is it something you do on a side?

Do you believe in God? And if you do, how can you scam people out of their hard earned money?  Do you sleep at night?  Do you feel any remorse whatsoever?

Trudi

Well, you guessed it, I am still waiting for an answer…

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

About the Author

Lana is a real life Identity Theft Victim. Identity Theft Manifesto is a result of her own struggles to clear her credit, her name and reputation. She is on the mission to research, learn more and educate her readers about ID Theft Crime.
  • Kristin Ward

    Oh that is priceless. I highly doubt you get the answers to your final questions but it was certainly amusing.

    How people fall for these obvious scams amazes me. There are of course more elaborate ones however some of these scams seem so obvious.

    I had one of my apartments used in a scam, one that was actually for rent. You can image my surprise when a guy shows up and cusses me out because his key doesn’t work in an apartment that is currently vacant.

    The price in the ad was half that of my asking price and the landlord that he had supposedly rented from was out of the country as a missionary. They did actually send a key, one that didn’t work.

    The guy that showed up had bad credit when I ran his report through http://www.tenantverification.com/. Couldn’t pay the actual price of the rent. No deposit, bad credit and not enough income.

    Clearly these scams are working. Scary if you think about it. I guess its a sign of the times when people are so desperate they blindly send money to get these so called “great deals”

  • Lana

    Thank you, Kristin, for watching this video! Obviously these scams are real and really lucrative; otherwise, the scammers would have given up a long time ago. You are right, it is amazing that people are still falling victim to these easy-to-spot scams that I investigated. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • britney

    It’s amazing what these scammers do. I remember I was on craigslist looking for an apartment. A rent to own came up for really really cheap, and it was in my parents neighborhood a street over from their house. It didn’t sound right so I sent an email and got a message almost identical, but the scary thing is how close to home it was. Growing up in the neighborhood I knew the people who were selling the house, an elderly couple who wanted to move into something smaller. Not some charity worker in Nigeria. I cant believe people would fall for any of this.