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Avoiding Nigerian Rental Scams

posted Feb 14, 2012, 4:02 PM by Kevin Morrison
Both Alex and Myself have searched for new apartments in the last year.  An apartment search is both exciting and frustrating.  One moment it might seem that an amazing place is within your grasp, and the next moment you discover a problem: too expensive, no pets, overhead airplanes, an odd smell, or the neighbors are in a cult.  One problem we were not expecting was fraudulent apartment listings.

Here is how it works.  The scammer goes to a private apartment listing website and copies a listing.  Then the scammer posts the copy of the listing at craigslist.com and offers the rental unit at a steep discount.  They claim a number of reasons, but it frequently comes down to how they need a person to look after their place while they are in Nigeria working for a humanitarian NGO or religious mission.  They claim they have dumped their listing agent (which is readily verifiable) and are listing it on their own as the owner.  

There are a couple of ways to take the scam from there:

1)  They request to run a background check, thus getting your social security number and credit history.  They can then use this information to steal your identity and acquire credit cards or small loans.

2) They request a deposit from you because they need to send you the key so you can view the apartment.  If you don't like the place you can send the key back and get your money.

3) They have someone local break in or get copies of the keys and then accept your rent checks until the rental company finds out you've moved in.  

The biggest giveaway that this is a scam is the formula they follow in their advertisement and email.  The advertisement will rarely have a phone number.  It will have a free email address such as gmail or hotmail.  The English grammar will be suspect.  The owner will mention being in Nigeria or another foreign country for humanitarian work.  The email response will have grammatical errors.  Finally, the rental rate will be absurdly low - typically half of the privately listed rate.

As examples, below is a craigslist posting and response email I believe is from a scammer.  I redacted the identifying information since those will change.  Notice the grammatical errors, the humanitarian mission "Healthy Baby Project", the fact the owner is in Lagos Nigeria, and the fact that a 2BR apartment near downtown Minneapolis with a Breakfast nook, "Balcony, Deck,or Patio" and off street parking would never cost as little as $600 a month.

In other words, be careful out there.

Sincerely,

WaMo Law

Advertisement

$600 / 2br - 2BR apt mainly for good home seekers with utilities (110 W. Grant St. Minneapolis, MN 55403)


Date: 2012-01-24, 7:54PM CST
Reply to: [redacted]@yahoo.com

2BR apt mainly for good home seekers with utilities 

110 W. [redacted] St. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (google map) (yahoo map)
  • cats are OK - purrr
  • dogs are OK - wooof
  • Location: 110 W. [redacted] St. Minneapolis, MN 55403
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Email:

Hello,

Thank you for your interest in my 2 bedroom apartment that is available and ready for move in now. My name is {redacted] owner of the apartment you are renting. I am very happy that i found an intending tenant for my apartment. I live in the apartment located at 110 W. [redacted] St. Minneapolis, MN 55403, with my wife and daughter before we relocated to West Africa 'Nigeria' where we are presently. We do not want the apartment to remain vacant because we left the US for a life-enriching program called (HBP) 'Healthy Babies Project, that basically focus and help at-risk families. We reach out to high-risk, low-income, substance-abusing, pregnant and parenting women, men, and their families and we also work with service provider partners to connect women and families to resources including health care, housing, nutrition, mental health services, educational support, skills building, substance abuse support and employment. We have inspiring stories from at-risk families who have had healthy babies and are moving out of the cycle of poverty – (thanks, to HBP) project. I am looking for a responsible and reliable tenant for my apartment. I am not after the money for the rent but if you can promise to be the right tenant to take good care of my home like it's your own then i will send you the keys and documents via Fed Ex courier services as soon as all terms are settled.

The 2 bedroom apartment which is $600 monthly rent include utilities and it features: Breakfast nook, Refrigerator, Stove/Oven,garage, Balcony, Deck,or Patio, Air conditioning, Walk-in closet, Hardwood floor, Tile floor, Living room, Cable-ready, High-speed internet ,Garage parking. Washer/Dryer and the apartment is not furnished. We are presently in Lagos city in West Africa Nigeria with the keys and documents to the apartment because we could not locate an agent to take charge due to a short time of notice of our program and also we do not want any abuse of our home for any illegalities or to be destroyed at our absence. If the price and location of the apartment is okay by you then reply back with the details below,

TENANT'S DETAILS
1) Your Names
2) Your Address and Phone?
3) Age?
4) Marital Status?
5) Number of occupants?
6) Have any pet or a car?
7) Occupation?
8) Renting period and move in date?
9) Gender?

The apartment pictures are attached for your visibility, you can drive by or pass through to see the building, even though you can't view the inside because we have the keys here with us. Get back ASAP.

Thanks and God bless,

Best Wishes. 


 
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