Graduation and summer break are good times to remind people of rental agreement scams.
A consumer recently informed BBB someone used Craigslist to rent property that belonged to her. A prospective tenant forwarded her an e-mail message from the scammer who claimed to be a U.S. citizen with a temporary “assignment” in Africa.
The consumer also reported the scammer took the name of her previous tenant and was impersonating the tenant with a fake e-mail address.
Below is part of the correspondence between the prospective renter and the scammer:
It gives me great joy to know that you have interest in my lovely house,its still very much available for rent and ready for immediate occupancy. I am sure you would be asking yourself why my rent is low, that’s because i am not too keen about the amount in renting the house out but to whom i am renting the house out to. My intention is to rent my house to someone that is responsible and be ready to take great care of the house as if it were his or hers. I am very certain that you would love the comfy of the house.
I would like you to know that i am giving this house out for rent because i have been posted to West Africa as an Pediatrician (kid’s doctor) and would spend couple of years before i would be through with my assignment here. So my family and i have decided that we would be moving to our other home in Seattle, Washington when we get back to the states,i would like you to complete the tenant application form below and please be honest with these details to enable us choose the right tenant.
The form includes an address, rental amount, description of the property and a questionnaire.
This is obviously the Nigerian rental scam. A quick web search even found exact matches for entire sentences in the above letter from people reporting the scam. Versions of the scam differ, but people have reported being asked to wire money to someone via Western Union or another service to make sure that you’re not a “time waster” or as payment to have them ship the keys to the rental property.
If you send money to someone like this, you won’t have a place to rent, and you’ll have to scrape up more money for a deposit when you do find a real place.
BBB advises renters of the following red flags to look out for:
- The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers often list a rental for a low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
- The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work – don’t believe it.
- The landlord requires a real deposit. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.
- The landlord asks the renter to wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is very difficult to retrieve and once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse. Your money is gone forever.