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October 11, 2011

Help–I’ve Been Scammed!

Last month I became involved in an internet scam with Craigslist.  You know, for some unknown reason I have never been a fan of Craigslist (craigslist.com) for buying or selling things online.  I have never used it…just a bad feeling; although, I have bought and sold items online before at other sites having no real worries about it.  No, I have my own personal reasons for continuing to avoid using that particular site.

We listed our home for sale recently and have had the normal amount of showings for the current economic climate.  (Yes, it is still for sale.)

One Sunday afternoon my family and I were standing outside the house in the front yard.  A very nice man drove up ,walked up to the house and said that he thought he would like to rent our home.  We told him that was nice but it was not for rent… only for sale.  He told us he saw it advertised online and that the “owner” told them she left as a missionary to Africa and before he could rent/sell the house he had to leave the country.  We told him that he was being scammed and he gave us the info on how he found it on Craigslist.  We checked… guess what?  There was our house represented by actual photographs, square footage and many other facts.

The FBI has been releasing warnings about this particular type of scam since 2009.  They reported that this scam is being run out of…are you ready for this… Nigeria.  Probably the same bands of Nigerians who have all the money and need your help to get the millions from a bad dictator for them and for you.

The basic scam runs like this:  A homeowner actually lists their home with a reputable realtor who then proceeds to place the home on the Multiple Listing Service and public websites.  The Nigerian ne’er-do-wells grab whatever information they want to use for the “rental” advertisement from the legitimate sites.

They then list it on Craigslist as if it is an actual rental offer from the homeowner.  Then people looking for a good deal on a rental house start coming to your house to rent it at a below market rate.  Ours was advertised at about half of what it would actually rent for in today’s marketplace.  If the people get as far as seeing the house and contacting the fake owner he sends them a contract and asks for the renters to return it signed along with a check for the first month’s rent and a security deposit.  After he receives the money they will be mailed the keys and can move in.

The scammer in our situation told the people that they could look around the house if they wished.  The Nigerian probably just took a chance that we wouldn’t be there.

Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally! Beware of any provisions involving Western Union, Money grams, wire transfers, or a landlord/owner who is out of the country and cannot meet you in person.  We had three people come to see our “rental property” before Craigslist removed the ad.  This they did after I tried to contact them (I say “tried” since I never heard back from anyone) but it took a little too long for my taste.

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