New Real Estate Scam

Clever:

Nigerian scammers find homes listed for sale on these public search sites, copy the pictures and listings verbatim, and then post the information onto Craigslist under available housing rentals, without the consent or knowledge of Craigslist, who has been notified.

After the posting is listed, unsuspecting individuals contact the poster, who is Nigerian, for more information on the "rental." The Nigerian scammer will state that they had to leave the country very quickly to do missionary or contract work in Africa and were unable to rent their house before leaving, therefore they have to take care of this remotely. The "homeowner" sends the prospective renter an application and tells them to send them first and last month's rent to the Nigerian scammer via Western Union. The prospective renter is further told If they "qualify," they will send them the keys for their house. Once the money is wired to the scammer, they show up at the house, see the home is actually for sale, are unable to access the property, and their money is gone.

Posted on July 29, 2009 at 5:31 AM • 49 Comments

Comments

Joe in AustraliaJuly 29, 2009 5:46 AM

There are similar scams for "vacation rentals". I nearly found this out the hard way, when I was looking for accommodation in Manhattan. The ads have pictures of great-looking apartments at very reasonable prices and the people advertising them sound legitimate enough. I was lucky - I emailed a whole bunch of them and the similarities in the responses indicated that there were only a few people behind the ones I had contacted. But, if I hadn't found this out, my family would have arrived in Manhattan to be greeted by some stranger with no idea why we were trying to enter his apartment.

uk visaJuly 29, 2009 6:11 AM

I'm surprised this hasn't received more coverage - there must be people losing money to this all over the world.

JakeJuly 29, 2009 6:14 AM

Not very clever, any seasoned Craigslist user should know wiring money is a big no no. The whole point of Craigslist is executing LOCAL transactions.

noahJuly 29, 2009 6:26 AM

Who rents a house without walking through it once? Gotta make sure there are no bodies (human or animal) in there.

eggbertJuly 29, 2009 6:27 AM

that's simple straight-forward advance payment scamming, or am i missing the new point here?

aikimarkJuly 29, 2009 6:29 AM

I'm surprised this works, since most renters would want to walk through the place or at least see the neighborhood prior to signing their rental agreement. The beauty of Craigslist is the ability to buy/sell/trade locally. The 'remote' nature of these scam rentals should raise a big warning flag to prospective renters.

ErinJuly 29, 2009 7:06 AM

This has been going on for at least a year. When I was searching Craigslist for apartments in prep for an upcoming move to DC, I ran into a few of these. My hackles went up whenever I saw a place with prices that were not so much "reasonable" as "unreasonably low for the area." I sent a trial balloon email to one of them and the response I got back was very similar -- oh, out of the country, so sorry, we will have to deal remotely.

Craigslist housing scams aren't just for the big city, either. I saw a likely scam posting for the small Midwestern city I'll be moving to in a month. No idea if it's the same scheme as this one (could be phishing for SSN or something). The things my scam-dar focuses on: vague about location, with no landmarks or streets mentioned by name; heading description (e.g. NEW CARPET) doesn't match the body (all hardwood in photos); price or terms out of line with the area. I've had great experiences with Craigslist overall, but you really have to have some common sense going in.

TomJuly 29, 2009 7:06 AM

They've been doing this for years. Someone tried to pull the same scam on me 2+ years ago when I was trying to rent an apartment.

vwmJuly 29, 2009 7:10 AM

I wonder why those kind of scams are mostly related to Nigeria. Is Nigeria an especially good country for money laundry? Or is it just most famous country that fits the requirements?

papa zitaJuly 29, 2009 7:39 AM

This scam is so well known on Craigslist and happens in far more sections than just rental property. Even in musical instruments, they'll just steal images somewhere and advertise a valuable instrument at a very good price. Usually they will say they've just be reassigned to Afghanistan or moving to England and need to sell quick, and to wire money. Nobody falls for it anymore. It's jeered and razzed by the community now.

David MeeseJuly 29, 2009 7:44 AM

It's interesting that the way these people write is a major give-away. It seems that most of the scams that I have seen all have similar grammatical and word use peculiarities. If they would learn to write like an american, they would probably be more successful. That being said, based on my own experiences, and those of friends, I would never, ever, touch an internet arrangement with someone in Nigeria.

sooth sayerJuly 29, 2009 7:51 AM

This and the reverse scam have been around a few years.

Reverse scam is a renter claminig his company is paying and is also going to furnish the place for upto X$ -- however there is single check for all of it. And the homeowner should given him the balance after keeping the security deposit!

I think very very very few people are dumb enough to fall for these.

sooth sayerJuly 29, 2009 7:54 AM

@noah .. and others ..

there are great scam -- and better scams ..


Best I have heard (ARE) tenants listing the house as a sublet - showing the place - taking 2 months security and leaving.

You get the place for a week or a day -- then you find out either a) the lease up already up b) previous tenant was being evicted for non-payment of rent !

This is a doozy .. because you actually get to see the property/lease and are dealing with a person.

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Clive RobinsonJuly 29, 2009 9:27 AM

@ David Meese,

"That being said, based on my own experiences, and those of friends, I would never, ever, touch an internet arrangement with someone in Nigeria."

I can give you a couple of other experiances of Nigerian Generals from direct experiance and a Nigerian friend who had a consignment of goods stolen under his nose in the Nigerian "Customs Hall".

1, Many years ago an assignment of medical equipment as "emergancy aid" was being delivered to the Nigerian Government. A Nigerian General came out with the pilot vessal and said he wanted to be paid "landing fees and import duty".

On being told that it was for the Nigerian Government to distribute as emergancy medical aid, and that it was expected and had full clearance documentation, he repeated his request.

I ten called up the Gov Representative I was told to put the "General on the line" when he had finished I spoke to the Gov Rep again and was told any more trouble "dump the cargo over the side" (mean while the captain a wielly old individual had sliped the vessal back to International waters).

The General now said that unless we paid the fees he had requested we would had to go to another port where the ship would be impounded and searched for prohibited items.

I told him that we had received direct orders to dump the cargo over the side which I was about to do. The General started to make other threats where upon the Capt asked him quietly if he could swim to shore.

The General paused and made more threats where upon the Capt pulled out a side arm and told the General the vessal was in Int Waters and he was commiting piracy and that he could jump over the side with or without a bullet in his back.

The General realising he was not going to get his bribe anounced he was going to speak to the Gov Rep on the radio in the pilot vessal and once on board left at high speed.

After talking to the Gov Rep again other arangments where made. Where by the ship was a little later met, escorted and unloaded at another port under the watchfull eye of wel armed (obviously not native) soldiers from what I was told was the "Presedential Special Guard"...

2, When working for a small organisation making very specialised radio equipment we had an order from a Nigerian General. The paperwork was correct and the sale had "had the nod" from above. However the General wanted to pay by cheque (bill). I told him it was a "cash only" transaction where upon a large number of fifty pound notes appeared. I looked at them and thought "these are to red in colour" and said that I would need to have the payment paid into the bank directly before releasing the goods. This caused a slight look of concern and the (possibly fake) money was taken back and we went down to the bank where he drew out "fresh currancy" at one window and I paid it back in at the adjacent window.

3, A friend who is Nigerian decided to set up a business shiping second hand fridges and re-tred tires back to his "home village" a not inconsiderable town near port harcourt.

He acompanied the goods which where in containers as he had arranged as part of the shipping to personally check the container contents prior to unloading.

So as aranged shortly before unloading he checked the container contents personaly and sealed the containers with security seals and stayed with the containers into the customs hall with a large amount of US currancy in and around his person.

He was then told he needed to have the paperwork checked as the weights where wrong. He assumed it was "bribe time" however the customs officer just went to a small office and worked tediously through the paperwork.

My friend was gone about 20 minutes or so checking the paperwork but at no time was he asked for a bribe nor was there any hint of anything like it.

When he went back to the containers checked and cut the seals opened the container doors and low and behold the containers where empty apart from rubble...

He later joked somewhat wryly that "obviously the local witchdoctor had a part time job with customs as a f*...*g stage magician".

woooooJuly 29, 2009 9:56 AM

For those of you wondering how Clive Robinson ends up in such adventures, he's agent 003 for MI6. ;)

PatJuly 29, 2009 9:59 AM

If someone you don't know personally ever asks you to wire them money, you should immediately think they're trying to scam you.

Use of companies like Western Union and MoneyGram are great for allowing criminals to operate anonymously. They provide a perfect cutout.

There are so many of these types of scams out there, the only real protection is public awareness/education.

paulJuly 29, 2009 10:02 AM

Same trick is also being used in spam for farm equipment. I think one of the things driving this kind of scam may be the universal availability of images of just about anything. You can just search Flickr or Google Images for whatever you want to pretend to be selling today and make up some good copy.

And a picture is worth many thousands of words in terms of convincing a potential mark that the object they're buying is real.

RHJuly 29, 2009 10:23 AM

Why is it that Nigeria is the source for all of these scams? I'd be all for just unplugging the country until they behave... an Internet timeout... in the corner

ScaredJuly 29, 2009 10:56 AM

Here's the actual text from such a scam in San Diego:
http://www.sdlookup.com/Forums/General/tabid/57/...
I like the wording: "including some utilities (Electricity, Water, Internet, Heat and Garbage)" Is heat a utility? And Stanley, you should know there's no trash collection fee in San Diego..

Hello,
Thanks for the email. I Romio Stanley owns the house and also it is situated and also want you to know that it was due to my transfer that makes me and my Family to leave the house and also want to give it out for rent and looking for a responsible person that can take a very good care of it as we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean all the time and the possible tenant will see the house as his or her own.

We have left the US and we are currently in the West Africa for a program called 'World Conference Against Racism Youth Summit, Empowering youth for combating racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education, the program is taking place in three major countries in Africa which is Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria. It as been a very sad and bad moment for me, the present condition that I found myself is very hard for me to explain. If you will be the right tenant to our house, we will get the keys and documents of the house sent to you via courier services as soon as all terms are settled.

HOUSE ADDRESSES 10942 Caminito Arcada, San Diego, CA 92131...3br, 3 ba and 1500 sqft Single Family Home with 2 Car Garage. Beautiful 3 bedroom 3 bath town home with large den available now! The home features a fully equipped kitchen, 2 car garage, and small back yard is an ideal home for a family. The townhome is situated in the Scripps Ranch Community of Encore-Aspire and features tot lots in a quiet and family friendly atmosphere. There is also ample guest party in the event you'd like to entertain a few guests!. I am flexible regarding the length of the lease. 6 mo., 1 yr., 2.yr, 3yr. etc. are all acceptable. I never increase the rental amount for good tenants..All credit considered, all types of pet allowed and Additional monthly charge of $200 for pet deposit.....You can drive down there to take a look ate it.

I will be online through out to get back to you as soon as you are able to get back to me. I would want to know how soon you would want to move in, as I will be taking a 2-month upfront payment which mean the first and last months you will be staying in the house including some utilities (Electricity, Water, Internet, Heat and Garbage). I am asking for $1400 and I believe we should be able to help ourselves. I am accepting $1400 including utilities because I want you to take a very good care of the house while I am away.

I am looking forward to hear from you ASAP so that i can forward you an application to fill out and discuss on how to get the house for rent over to me so that I can get the keys and papers sent to you via FedEx or ups e.t.c, also are you ready to rent it now or when?

Await your reply. I will be willing to send the inside view of the building if you demands for it.

I could let you remain in the house till I come back if you are a good tenant and you can reach me on +2348085320934.

Thanks and awaits your mail as soon as possible.

Stanley.

General GomboJuly 29, 2009 12:12 PM

@RH
It is not necessary Nigeria. Some people are communicate from Gambia, Ghana and such countrys. Poverty is a determining factor is motivation of this crime. If just one person send 600 DOLLARS that can feed for months. I hope this can be understand between us.

Good day SIRS/MADAME

General Gombo
Deputy Directory of Minitru

teejJuly 29, 2009 12:19 PM

This is absolutely happening on Craigslist Minneapolis - I saw quite a few of them when apartment hunting in February of this year.

The style seemed to be shots of upscale condos and duplexes for ridiculously low rates, i.e. 2 BR luxury condo in Uptown for $600/mo. They started getting pulled down pretty quickly, as I recall.

Clive RobinsonJuly 29, 2009 12:55 PM

@ wooooo,

"he's agent 003 for MI6. ;)

No (if I remember correctly) it was,

I'm Bond, Premium Bond, agent 00 3 and a half, half the man I should be.

There I'm showing my age(nt) I can remeber Russ Abbot jokes...

AndrewJuly 29, 2009 12:59 PM

You can add the San Francisco Bay Area to your list of scammer locations.

While house hunting, I encountered one couple who were convinced they were about to rent the house via CL when the house was clearly listed on the MLS. I suggested that they call the agent listed on the sign, and they felt that "anyone could come by and put up a sign." Sigh.

>> I wonder why those kind of scams are mostly related to Nigeria. Is Nigeria an especially good country for money laundry? Or is it just most famous country that fits the requirements?

Good access to world financial network and Internet. High level of English literacy. Crushing poverty. Looted by multinational oil corporations, one of whom uses the logo of a clam, often in yellow and red.

TimJuly 29, 2009 2:24 PM

Well apart form the obviousness of the scam, Western Union is a big red flag? God knows why they are still allowed to exist. They're practically a criminal organisation.

Davi OttenheimerJuly 29, 2009 3:10 PM

@ Andrew

"Good access to world financial network and Internet. High level of English literacy. Crushing poverty. Looted by multinational oil corporations, one of whom uses the logo of a clam, often in yellow and red."

Are you trying to describe America, or did I get that wrong?

Dutch DudeJuly 29, 2009 5:04 PM

These guys arent just active from Nigeria, they're operating from the UK, Netherlands, France, and other european countries. Why stay in Nigeria when you can afford a planeticket to the rest of the world?

JamieJuly 29, 2009 7:34 PM

This does not just happen on Craigslist. In the UK the current favourite is on Gumtree. The scam goes like this:

1 - They list a property for rent that is a great deal - town centre with parking, etc.

2 - They are out of the country (doing great work in hospital in Rome - whatever!) and when previous people have wanted to view they have had to jet back and been "let down" and it has cost them

3 - So to show you are serious and have the money they want you to wire money via Western Union. The bait here is that is not to them. As an act of faith they want you to transfer the cash to someone that you know and trust - mum, dad, grilfriend. That way you can pick the cash up from your "trusted source". But - you know what's coming right? - they want you to fax them the receipt to show you have the money.

4 - You send them a copy with tracking number

5 - You turn up next day to get your money back and the cash has already gone.

Some people I know almost fell for it.

MWJuly 30, 2009 2:49 AM

I live in Geneva, Switzerland, where we have an incredibly low vacancy rate for apartments. This is a widespread scam on CL...usually the text includes something about needing a "godly" person to take care of the house, some kind of flattery to the applicant; but the rest is the same. I know a handful of people who were taken in by this, no doubt made more vulnerable by the desperate search for Geneva housing.

anonymous CowardJuly 30, 2009 4:24 AM

> I'm surprised this hasn't received more coverage -
> there must be people losing money to this all over the world.

Actually no. Only an American or Brit would send two months worth of rent without ever having entered the house or signed a contract with the owner or realtor.

ytJuly 30, 2009 6:08 AM

@Davi Ottenheimer "'Good access to world financial network and Internet. High level of English literacy....'

Are you trying to describe America, or did I get that wrong?"

Nah, English literacy is not that high in America. ;)

I do have to wonder if dishonesty and corruption are just generally culturally accepted in Nigeria. I studied in an international program in Finland, and some of my classmates were from Nigeria. For his contribution to a group project, one classmate copied and pasted text verbatim from several websites without crediting any sources. When I explained that unless you're writing about your original thoughts in your own words, you have to cite the sources for quotes and paraphrasings, it seemed that it never occurred to him that plagiarism was not acceptable.

captain purpleJuly 30, 2009 9:40 AM

It happens in the UK as well. We have a website called Gumtree, essentially the same as Craigslist. I was intrigued by the scammer and asked for photos of the property. I then got a response with pictures of various different rooms, most of them being hotel rooms. If the poor grammar and insistence on cash up front weren't enough to put someone off, this most definitely would!

Angel OneJuly 30, 2009 10:07 AM

There's really nothing new or interesting about this - people offer things for sale all the time that they don't really have in the hopes of getting paid first and then making off with the money. It happens all the time on ebay and craigslist. I can't imagine anyone is foolish enough to pay for a rental property without even being able to see it first.

ManeeshJuly 30, 2009 10:19 AM

No sympathies to such victims. Its pure greed. (Not supporting the act of scammers though)

John SJuly 30, 2009 10:47 AM

Why can't the world just say "enough already" and disconnect Nigeria from the Internet?

askme233July 30, 2009 6:54 PM

As others have stated this is textbook 419 and not new.

I was most impressed by the ones that then go on to say that they are aware that the "out of town" sounds fishy and a lot like current scams. They reference CL warnings not to wire money, etc.

The note then goes on to say that they would prefer to use an escrow service to ensure safety on both sides and provide a link to their prefered Online Escrow service. You go there and the company is valid, is reputable and well known, so you Escrow the money. later you find out that it was an elaborate phishing scheme with a fake copy of a real Escrow website (scripts and all). The whole deal was just to get you to click on their link to the fake copy of the Escrow website, not the real one.

whenever you think you are smart, there is someone smarter preying on your ego.

Clive RobinsonAugust 1, 2009 10:04 AM

@ Scott Treacy,

"and a Basildon Bond clip..."

Ugh no I'm not just old I'm getting...

You are right it's Basildon Bond, I need to paper over the cracks in my memories ;)

AaronAugust 1, 2009 5:10 PM

"I do have to wonder if dishonesty and corruption are just generally culturally accepted in Nigeria."

Not really. Fleecing foreigners, on the other hand, is. Couple that with anger at Europeans and Americans over the legacies of colonialism and slavery, and you've got an industry. Check out the video for "I Go Chop Your Dollar," and one of the things that you'll see is that Nigerians don't see this as thievery. In part I suspect that Nigerians are just more open in their contempt of "out-group" than some other nations are.

turtleAugust 2, 2009 1:38 PM

I actually happen to be in the oil industry, working for a company with a clam logo in yellow and red. Yeah, yeah, I know! I do come across quite a few Nigerians in the course of business, and these are the people that are currently in the US. It is hard to meet the most self-entitled, unethical, and extremely rude bunch (of course, with few exceptions that confirm the rule!). I suspect they are hired due to some secret quota since professionally they are more trouble than they are worth. I've talked to people from countries in Africa near Nigeria, and they also noted that these issues are quite specific to Nigerians due to their culture. The problem is that most in this country like cash, but don't want to do sh!t for it.

Obviously, my opinion can be biased, however, here are a couple of links where one can read more, and note the Nigerian classic bribe phrase "do you have something for me" if you want anything done at all:
http://travel.yahoo.com/...
http://www.rigg-access.com/wwwboard/...
http://www.rigg-access.com/wwwboard/...

So this is can be a large part of the reason why most of such scams come from Nigeria, and not other countries.

DouglasAugust 4, 2009 2:53 PM

If only they could apply their cunning and ingenuity to a legitimate business. Even though they are linked as coming out of Nigeria – there is no way to tell exactly where in the world the scam is originating – unless the scammer gets caught red-handed. Like most aspects of security, education and awareness is one of the best forms of defense.

Nick PAugust 15, 2009 11:45 AM

"he's agent 003 for MI6. ;)"

Maybe he is, maybe he aint. With such broad knowledge and tales, he could just be a famous spy novelist reading the forum.

I'll save u the suspense: he's Robert f***ing Ludlum. :P

RopeyApril 19, 2011 3:20 PM

Anyone using Western Union should be wary, I have had two very poor experiences sending money, mainly to China and HK, no specific reference to Nigeria however. I work with a girl who provided personal details through receiving a spam email from Nigeria, they called her on her mobile phone for weeks asking her to transfer money via Western Union. The security for Western Union is appalling and there is no recourse! When you send money you waive your rights to claim and wave goodbye to your cash...in some instances.

joApril 15, 2012 12:52 PM

This was a response to our Craigs List home ad.
thank you very much for your kind response , please am sorry for getting back to you on time is due to distance from where we are here and to a near by community where we can be able to access internet as you know Niger republic is in the Sahara .

Regard the house we are still very much interested in the buying it. and we are very much happy to know that we are dealing with the right person since transaction like this most be done with all honesty and transparency .please we really need your help in this transaction due to our present situation we can not be able to
come down to sign all contract of this transaction .

we want that you help us handle everything about this transaction .you know that trust is very important in anything we do in life i understand from you response that you most be a honest human although no one is perfect and change is another constant thing in life.

am saying this because i and my family are only trusting you blindly as you are also to believe and trust us blindly in other for we to proceed with this transaction as we really do not want to be seeing as a refuge's any more .we told you we have our funds already with a storage company in Belgium.please we want you to stand as a beneficiary ,

Please we want that our funds been deliver to you so that you can make payment for the house and get all the contract paper come in my name.

we have a total of $6.7 million us dollars with this company deposited by late father for safe keeping. all we want you to do for us is to give us your word that you will help get the funds deposited to your account safely and make payment for the house with all honesty.

although we are nor Christan but we are easy to get along with people.please we do not want to go back to our country Libya .please we want to live this place and get a new home to start a new life. please we need your help ASAP . As the new leader of our nation Libya has sent a message to the Niger government to have a rethink of accommodating one of the son's of our late president and all his father's loyalist .that they should send us back to Libya for questioning please we do not want to go back to our country this is the reason we want to relocate and have a new life with pace.

we will be very happy if you can help us and we promise we will give you 15% of our funds if you help us.
we hope to hear from you soon .
thanks


Ali Camara

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