With the number of people displaced by foreclosures and short sales, the real estate rental market is very active. Scamers have taken notice and are out there trying to extort money from renters. This is not a new trend, as a matter of fact this is not the first time I have had one of my listings taken over, pictures and all, posted on Craig's List as a bargain rental. When I start getting phone calls from renters on my listings I know someone is trying to extort money from them using my listing ads.
In a recent episode, I went to Craig's List and looked for the ad. Sure enough, there it was, my pictures and my description of the house, address and all. The rent was very low which explains the number of calls. I decided to send an e-mail and ask to be considered as a tenant. I filled out a simple questionnaire and gave my real e-mail address, I promised to pay up to 3 months in advance if I was chosen as the tenant. The landlord explained in an e-mail that he and his family were in Lagos, Nigeria on an assignment from their church and won't be coming back for about a year.
The response was quick and I was offered the house for rent, the landlord asked that I send the $850.00 first month rent only, and that I could send the second months rent the following week and then the third month on the third week. The reason, I learned later, is that there is a process where if you send more than a $1,000 via Western Union you will need to fill out a few tax forms and this transaction could be flagged. These people know the rules about international wires and their limits and conditions, you can tell they have done this many times over.
I responded that my wife wanted to see the house before signing the rental agreement which the landlord said will be sent with the keys as soon as he gets the money. We even suggested that we could call the Realtor and ask him to show us the house. An immediate explanation come back saying that they wanted to sell the house but they had changed their mind and had not told the Realtor yet. We were warned NOT to talk to the Realtor at all.
Playing along with the conman I ask if we could see pictures of the inside of the house and since he had said he will come and visit us, we wanted to see pictures of him and his family too. A set of very nice pictures of a newer home arrive, and also a family shot of a Caucasian family, including 2 small children. Very detailed steps were sent to us about how and where to send the money. We insisted on seen the rental agreement first, within minutes a California Rental Agreement was sent, I was surprised to see how accurate the legal the document was. We agree to send the money as instructed.
Within the next two days the conman send us e-mails asking if we had sent the money. We told him we did, but also told him that we had gone to the house and saw the Realtor and had an opportunity to see the house, we confided that we had left a back door opened and that we planned to take possession of the house within the next day or so.
Our conman insisted that we give him the 10 digit number for the wire, we did, he become frustrated because no such number existed and demanded to see a copy of the wire transfer, we told him we were already in the house and planned to have a BBQ the next day. But with the moving we could not remember where the receipt was... but that we were enjoying his house.
His frustration grew and he become rather hostile, while he wanted to know if we had followed his wire instructions step by step, we kept telling him about the colors we were thinking of painting different rooms in the house! I think that at one point he knew he had been duped and asked if we were playing with him and taking him for a fool, we quickly confirmed his suspicions and told him that his e-mail has been blocked and he will never be able to communicate with us anymore.
All I wanted to know is how far these people go to steal money from potential renters, obviously they know how international wires work, how much money is allowed to be sent without arousing suspicions from the financial entities, and what the process entail.
This process created by others on the other side of the world bring unnecessary attention to a house for sale by people that will not be buying, once their money is taken, they might even come to the seller to find answers as to why they lost their money. Renters be aware: DO NOT SEND MONEY OVERSEAS, YOU'LL NEVER GET IT BACK. If there is a for sale sign, call the Realtor and get some answers!
Antonio & Alexia Cardenas
"The Realtors In Motion"
CRS, GRI, E-Pro Certified. SFR (Short Sales, Forclosure Resource) Serving the east shores of the San Francisco Bay, Alameda county: specially the following cities: Castro Valley, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, Oakland, Pleasanton & Dublin.
Visit us on line at:
www.listedbyantonio.com or call (510) 326-4263
Call us, We'll come and TANGO with you!