Yeah Right! I might have been born at night but it wasn’t last night!
In my search for a new home in Knoxville, Tennessee I have recently discovered that there are an abundant number of scammers online posing as landlords. I’ve heard of scams involving cars and wire transfers or money orders as well as secret shopper scams but this was the first time I’ve seen these rental scams. Evidently it’s not something new however.
I thought I had found the perfect home for my husband and I and our two dogs. This “Charming Victorian” home boasted 2 bedrooms, heart of pine floors, 12 foot ceilings, four fireplaces and a fenced in backyard. All this for the low price of $500 a month. I quickly sent an email in reply to the Craigslist post and here is the email I received in response.
Thanks for your response.I’m Robin M Cleavenger i owned the house and I received your email correctly. I wanted to tell you a little about us as well, so that you can get a feel for who we are. I thought it might give you another look into my character and the type of person I am, which I know is very important to you. I have been married to my wife for 5 years with 3 children. my family and I We are very passionate about God’s work. Along with working in the church.I have given myself to be obedient to God. few months back I plan to sell the house due to our transfer to West Africa (Nigeria) on a missionary work but my Family Advise me not to sell our house anymore. Now I change my decision to renting the house. My family and I are seeking for a good tenant who would take care of our house while we are away,I do be believe you can take care of my House. All maintenance issues and yard work would obviously be my responsibility.I would take care of any maintenance issues and the Utilities. I was dealing with the Realtor in getting a tenant, but the Realtor want me to rent the house very expensive due to their contract fee. I was renting at higher price and that takes time to get someone who will rent at that price.I change my mind working with the Realtor. Now I reduced the price of the rent to a flexible price. I won’t sell my house anymore since I’ll be in Nigeria for 5 years. I am looking for 1 to 5 years lease if possible, we can renew the lease. short lease is acceptable as well. I would like you to treat the house as if you owned it. drive by the house today and get back to me after that—-Ignore the Realtor sign post in front of the house when you go by. I am no longer dealing with them. the Realtor would remove the sign post next week.the keys and documents are with us here in Nigeria… So I will need to ship them to you before you can occupy the house.I’m not around to book an appointment for viewing the inside. But you can drive by the house anytime to take a look at the area and surrounding, You can also peek through the windows if you don’t mind. I would feel at ease renting this home at flexible price rather dealing with the Realtor and renting so expensive. I have an impressive dedication in helping others. Thank you for taking the time to read my quick story of who I am. Again thank you for your time and God bless!
This was only the first part of the email. It went on for several more paragraphs. When I first read this, I have to admit, it was very early in the morning and my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I had never heard of rental scams but the inner detective in me sent me straight to Google. In the email, the address of the house was included so I hopped on Google Maps and zoomed in to street level to view the house. Amazingly this house which boasted 4 fireplaces, didn’t even have a single chimney visible from the Google Maps photos. Hmmm….a little fishy!
The email also included several pictures, supposedly of the inside of the home. Upon closer inspection of these photos it was obvious that these were not even from the same house. You could see small details in the pictures that made me realize these were not even taken inside the same house.
So, I came to the conclusion I’d been hit by a scammer. I was disappointed that this home was not “for real” but I’m glad I had enough sense not to fall for their scam.
I continued my search for a new home and within two hours I received a reply to another email I had sent. This one was basically the same message only this time they stated they were “doing the Lord’s work in Warsaw, Poland.”
Looking forward to hearing from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you…Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this… The house is available for rent at the moment so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to…Feel free to call or text at (+234-701-195-6690) OR (202) 670-4318 because i roamed my number try either one of the TWO numbers for more information and arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you…The house will be available for rent for a period of 4 years so you have a choice of deciding how long you intend staying there…
You would think that 2 scam emails in the same day would have been enough but I received a third one that was very different from the first two. This email really sounded legit…at first.
First and foremost, thank you for your interest in the home. I am available to show the house this week if that fits your schedule.
Just to give you a little more information about the home, the water, trash
and garbage are paid by us. The security deposit can be paid in 2 installments if money is tight. (I know how that can be).
The house has a fenced in backyard and we do allow pets. The deposit per pet is a one time payment.
The house includes a washer and dryer, and we pay for lawn care so the renter does not have to cut the grass.
There is NO application fee (our company policy and guarantee).
I will be happy to show the house at an agreed upon time and date but I do require that all applicants and additional renters who will be living in the home complete a free credit report to ensure their eligibility.
I have so many people apply for homes that I have to make sure they are qualified renters before I show the property.
This ensures neither of us will be wasting our time.
It is okay if you have bad credit (trust me). We just check to make sure that you don’t have several evictions on your record. (We won’t rent if you have 3 or more evictions on your record)
I also had to recently stop giving out the exact address of rental properties before I am able to show them because last time I did that the house was vandalized (I will be glad to send you the address right after your reply) I assure you though that this is a very safe neighborhood. I actually lived in this home for 2 years (very cozy).
As soon as you can, please click the link below and go to the secure website to complete the free credit report (takes about 30 seconds)
Once you complete, I’ll call you once I receive the information from the credit company (very quickly usually).
HERE THEY HAD A LINK TO SUBMIT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER FOR A CREDIT CHECK.
*** You don’t have to send me your credit report.
Once you fill out the report the credit company automatically forwards me your name, email address and whether you have
had any outstanding evictions in the past 5 years to determine your renter eligibility. This is the only information I am
interested in. This is a soft credit report so it won’t touch your FICO score (which is why we work with them).
This process turns some people off, so I completely understand if you decide not to complete them. In that case, good luck with your home search. I just want to be honest with you up front about our process, which does a good job of protecting us from ineligible renters and scammers. Also, the site above is one the safest and most secure website for credit reports in the world, which is good for peace of mind. I have worked with them personally for a couple years now.
If you are truly interested in proceeding, take a moment and fill out one of the reports. Let me know when this is done and we can then work out the time and date to go see the home. Email me back once you access your fresh report. I will be forwarded
the information. (Make sure to include a valid phone number. I usually call within 6 hours of submitting your report. Then I can forward you the address and we can set up a time to tour the home.)
If eligible you will also be sent an email with my office number so we can set up a time to go see the house and discuss any other questions or concerns you may have.
As I started reading this email I was thinking, “wow, that would be great if we could split up the deposit…moving is expensive.” But the more I read, the more clear it became that this was a scam. I’m sure that there are people who will click the link and unwittingly give their Social Security Number to someone who could easily destroy their financial lives.
In my research of online rental scams I found horror stories of people who rented a home by wiring money to their supposed landlord only to find that the home didn’t exist or even worse….the home was already occupied. I even read stories of homeowners who have had people show up at their house, wanting to view the house because they saw an ad online that the home was for sale! How scary would that be!
Some tips when searching for a home online:
1. Don’t ever send money to someone you haven’t met in person or for a home that you have never seen firsthand.
2. Be cautious about who you give your Social Security Number to.
3. When meeting someone to view a house it’s a good idea to take someone with you. Going into an empty house, by yourself with someone you don’t know could be dangerous.
4. Use local realtors or property management groups to aid in your search for a home. Craigslist and other local classifieds are not always the best option.