Recently, I received a telephone call from someone (a potential fraud victim) regarding my posting on Craigslist for a house for rent in Henderson. The only problem with that is that I do not have an ad on Craigslist for a house for rent in Henderson.
It seems as if someone (I am still investigating who) used my name to put an ad on the internet. He (or she) included my name as part of the email address to which prospective tenants should respond. The email address also included a number after my name, which either coincidentally or intentionally happens to be my age.
The ad listed a house way below market rent, so it was sure to get a lot of responses. When the “landlord” was contacted, he wrote a VERY long email, explaining in incredible (and suspicious) detail why the property was for rent, along with countless other unnecessary specifics. He went on to say that he was recently transferred to Africa, so initial rent and security deposit payments would have to be sent via Western Union. (Sound suspicious yet?)
He sent (by email) a lease agreement that is not one that real estate professionals use, which was pre-signed by him. He also sent photos of the property that he obtained off the internet.
The person who brought this scam to my attention smartly checked tax records, and determined that the name of the owner listed with the county was someone very different. She then visited the house, only to find someone already living there. The current owner- occupant said that the house was for sale, not for rent at all, and of course, he had no idea that any of this was going on.
It makes perfect sense that someone would go to these lengths to extort money from unsuspecting strangers using my good name. He surmised that if anyone suspected a scam, they would simply search my name on the internet (which is how the would-be victim found me), or perhaps visit the Nevada Real Estate Division, or Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtor web sites, and a simple search would reveal that I am, in fact, in excellent standing with all. The problem, of course, is that he is not me.
I suppose an effective way to run a scam would be to prey upon the established well-known name of a reputable professional in the field in which you prefer to perpetrate a hoax, thereby alleviating or diminishing suspicious thoughts that a savvy consumer may have.
So, I warn the public: NEVER SEND MONEY VIA WESTERN UNION TO AN UNKNOWN PERSON!
If anyone is interested in the response letter from this scammer, just email me and I will happily send it to you.
I have blogged on scams before, and now, here is another variation to add to the list.
Whether dealing in real estate or any other business or service: watch out, use your head, and if it smells bad or seems too good to be true, it most likely is.