My friend's scam flat share
Tony Levene explains how this shocking flat share scam works, and how to protect yourself.
If the internet could be uninvented, we'd miss loads of things – lovemoney.com for starters and finding a video to explain how to fix a leaky washing machine for seconds.
But besides lovemoney.com fans and DIY repairers, there's another – and altogether sinister – group who could not function without the world wide web.
They're the scamsters who play on our belief that, because it's online, it MUST be true. That's because at least 99% is good and useful but also because we want to believe what we see. Hands up those who would prefer knowing a celeb curls up in bed at 10pm with a mug of cocoa and the Bible rather than involvement in a drugs-fuelled orgy – even if the cocoa and the good book is the truth.
So when Nick, a friend, started looking for a flat to go with his new central London job, he searched sites such as Craig's List and Gumtree.
He soon found a seemingly ideal flat share on Craig's List - large, near his work and at a very low rent.
He sent the advertiser – called Magdalena – an email.
My name is Nick. I saw your apartment advertised on Craig's list and it looks very promising. I know that it's hard to gauge what
a person is like via the Internet so if you would like you can always add me on facebook (search for my full name).
Magdalena wrote back (the mistakes are in the original)
Thanks for your interest in my apartment.
My apartment is located at 45,upper berkeley street marble arch W1H7QR.
The rent includes all bills water,gas,electricity and internet.
The rent is £90 a week plus all bills and a security deposit of £300 is required which will be refunded to you after moving into the flat.
Nick is now suspicious. The rent is too low for the prime location. One line says the rent includes bills while the next says they are extras. Most of all, why would someone want £300 to be refunded “after you move in”? This did not add up.
Then he found a section on Craigslist explaining that some users attempt to use the site for scams, and providing the following advise:
** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.html
Being a bad lad, Nick decided to play “Magdalena” along.
Would it be possible to see the apartment and meet you at some point in the near future?
Of course, there is no flat but within minutes the reply arrived - again, I've kept in all of Magdalena's eccentric spelling and grammar:
I just need you to understand the fact i cannot meet anyone and bring them to the flat without given an evidence of deposit for assurance and avoiding recent happennings in the area. Also some funny things are done when people come to view houses in the area. Firstly,i have attached for you a copy of my international passport for your reference. It was advised by the metropolitan so as to give intending viewers an evidence as well.
What i mean is that you would have to give an evidence of deposit so as to assure me that i am really talking to someone whom is true and honest(I do not not mean insult but its because of the recent happenings). You would have to go a western union office and make the deposit to YOURSELF (not me). What i mean is that you would be the receiver yourself. This is how the transfer process would be. You would have to go to the western union office with your friend as well.
By doing this,your money is 100% safe since you are the only eligible to receive it here in London. After viewing the room and you like it(which i am sure of),i would thn follow you to the western union office just down the street so that you can receive the money and pay me in cash. I would want you to know that the transfer charges would be refunded back to you whether you take the room or not. All i have to do is to confirm online that you have truly sent the money to yourself. You would have to scan the receipt of the transfer and send it to me so that i can confirm online that you have sent the money to yourself.
I'm very sorry but although I like the sound of the flat, I don't understand how sending myself money is going to give anyone any comfort whatsoever. Surely, it's more important that, if I am to share this, that we get on.
I quite understand you but you see,i do not like the idea of letting strangers into my place without a deposit.I suggested you transfer the money to yourself to put your mind at rest that i have nothing whatsoever to do with your money.
Please note that i am willing to let you have the room only if you follow the simple procedure to assure me.I already gave you a copy of my passport which i should not have done if i had any ulterior intentions towards you.
Hope you understand better now.
Ok, you seem very nice. I will tranfer you 300 pounds, how do I do that ?
Nick! ,thanks for your understanding.If you will transfer me 300pounds,then you will need just my name and address.
address-45,upper berkeley street marble arch W1H7QR.
I ma sure we will be good friends as flatmates !
Now Nick gets silly with the scamster.
I think you are very beautiful maybe we could be lovers. What do you think?
Nick. Thanks for the compliment !
Why don't we conclude the room issue first then we talk about being lovers.I am not engaged so perhaps we can see if we can get to know each other better .
I knew I would find my love on Craig's List. God told me.
But are you a woman of God?
I have just come out of prison for killing my last girlfriend - but it was an accident. I did not mean to. But with you it will be different. I swear it!
Can I send you £1000 to show my love?
Nick,you are such a funny person..But whether God told you that you will find your love on craigslist will be determined by what we agree on when we see eachother.
You killed your last girlfriend ? well since it was an accident its not your fault and since you say it will be different with me .I will also know that when i see you !
Wow - I can't believe you understand. Not many people would.
However, before I give you any of the money I want you to join my religion. You will be my wife and my princess and I will sacrifice you to the Nordic god Kcin.
By this time Magdalena realises she/he has wasted her/his afternoon and moves on to someone else.
This is basic. Never pay upfront. Don't trust Western Union identity checks as offering real security – if they did scamsters would not use it. And if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is! From more on this form of scam, have a read of The phantom rental property scam.
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Award-winning scams expert Tony Levene explains why he's writing a blog about scams and why he is The Scam Magnet!