Anatomy of a Craigslist scam

By Stew

As many of you know, Mrs. Stew and I have been looking for another place to rent. We are not in a hurry, but we are consistently checking the ads to see what is available in our price range. In the course of looking on, we have happened upon some fishy offers, including one scam. I figured out that it was a scam pretty quickly, but I emailed the scammer for a bit just for kicks. I thought that readers might be interested in reading the responses from the con artist.

What first caught my eye was the fact that the home was listed for about $500 under the market price for similar properties – that was my first tip. I then realized that I had seen the exact same property listed for double the price on another website by a different property manager. Still, on the outside chance that the offer was legitimate, I emailed the poster through the craigslist website:

Hello, I saw your West Center Avenue property listed in Craigslist and wondered if I could get some more information, please email me back

Here is the first response from “Tim”:

Thanks for your interest in my house. I am a professional piano/music theory teacher, I’m easy going and friendly. I like Music and have deep interests in traveling. I respect every religion and love to hang around with people and i am definitely not a trouble maker and very helpful in nature. I am currently living in Nigerian due to my transfer and I will be here for as long as 6 years, that is why am renting out my house. The house is located at: #### West Center Avenue, L——– CO 8##### .This 3 bedroom  and 2.5 bathrooms residence. Kitchen is bright and cherry with all wood cabinets and plenty of counter space. Open dining room and large living room.

All bedrooms are nice sizes. Master bedroom offers two separate closets which allows for plenty of clothes! Garage can be used as extra space, workshop or as, of course, a garage. There is plenty of space for a vegetable garden and a separate fenced area for pets. Some landscaping with perennials and mature bushes and trees. Fresh paint throughout. The Rent is $700 monthly including utilities and $600 for Security deposit. The house  is available for long term and short term lease is acceptable. The building is in a great location situated in the quiet and safe area and offers secure access. internet, cable, laundry in-suite, storage facilities, heat, water, electric and parking is included in the rent and pet are allowed.

I had a Realtor company help me get a tenant, but they were handling things too professionally and were extorting the tenants, so i took the job of their hands and tried doing this my self, but couldn’t find any tenant while I was still in the state as at last week. so as a matter of urgency for my travel, I do not want my home to be misused in my absence, I decided to take the keys and documents along with me. So I hope you will promise me to take very good care of the house always. I really do need to get a very well-behaved person to take occupancy of my house and take good care of it for me.

So get back to us as soon as you can so we can send you the application form.

Waiting to hear from you soon.

Tim J M———  Call us for more information: ############

I love how he pretty much just quotes the original ad copy. Why are these guys always from Nigeria? Are there no con artists in other African countries? Is Nigeria the only country with internet access? I was certain that I was not dealing with an honest guy by this point, but I was interested in seeing how long he would go. I briefly considered calling him, but I was not interested in paying for an international phone call. So I simply said:

Tim, we are quite interested in this house, but I saw another listing that had it for $1,400 per month rent . . . this looks like a scam, but if it isn’t, we are interested

His response where he explains away the price discrepancy and attempts to respond to my calling his ad a “scam”:

Thank you for getting back to me as soon as you can.Yes the price you saw was the price that was put by the Realtor we were working with before but we no longer want to work with them again.I understand you  perfectly and i also understand your concern but I want you to know something and it’s true like the bible said”The truth and only the Truth shall set you free,thus says the lord of host”.I’m telling you the truth now as a dedicated Christian is against my doctrine to rip people off their money which they labored so hard for, i did not leave my home all the way to Africa here  to rip people off any one money.I am not writing this email for you to change your mind about me but I just have to clear up my prestige.I do everything possible to imitate the Lord,I will never do anything to hurt anyone in this Life.My word is My Bond,when I say Yes,its definitely Yes.So get back if interested in our home.


My response:

Okay, sounds good. Is there a time when we can come by and look at the property?

His answer cracked me up:

Yes you can go drive by the home as soon as you can and get back to me so i can forward you the application form.

My last note to which he never responded.

Okay, are you on facebook or do you have a website where I can check to see if you are a real person? Is there a way for us to see the inside of the house?

I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to get him to send me the application form so I could look at it. Have you stumbled across any Craigslist scams?

Photo by o5com

11 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Anatomy of a Craigslist scam”

  1. AprilPhire Says:

    Hahahaha The timing could not be more perfect for me with this article!!!

    I just started my search for a new place to rent and came across the ‘perfect’ ad for an apartment very close to my work. Copied the link, replied per the instructions. Everything was good. Then the ad was ‘flagged’ for removal on craigslist and I never heard back from the guy.

    I moved my search onto another search engine, and found the same place advertised, this time with a different name. Email this one too, no idea why. What i got back is pretty much identical to what you wrote above, with the exception of the guy being in London, UK (instead of London, England) and being an engineer on a 4 year contract. The terms have changed with each email I send and questions are not being answered at all. The ad was flagged again on the second search engine and I really hope no one fell for it. I certainly didn’t!

    The apartment in question is actually for sale and the pictures used are from THAT advertisement. It was luck I found it as a co-worker was talking to me about purchasing an investment place and was looking for someone safe to rent it to (ME!). She’s since gone back to the Realtor to tell him about this. I’ve stopped emailing the scammers and have changed all of my passwords just in case :D

  2. prasti Says:

    this was great to read. thanks for sharing! we’ve never experienced a scam on craigslist (though we’ve had SPAM e-mails when i list items).

  3. Freedom Journey Says:

    This is awesome! We experienced a very similar scam, Nigeria again! In ours the “owner” was a Christian missionary doctor working in Africa who had a friend in town with the keys & paperwork. The English used was very good and he even gave us a working phone number to call.

    When we went to look at the house two other couples were there too. As we all started talking and comparing notes we began to see the unraveling of the scam, and when the neighbor lady came outside she told us the house had been sold to a nice young couple a few weeks before. It wasn’t for rent at all. I think one man had sent money after speaking with the “owner.” But the rest of us escaped unscathed, if a bit disappointed.

    All in all, if it seems to good to be true (even on Craigslist), it probably is!

  4. Christina Says:

    A while back, I was looking for a place to rent on Craigslist as well. I found a house for below the normal renting price, and e-mailed about it. He said he was a Christian missionary in some other country, and something about sending me the key once I pay the money. It smelled fishy to me, so I did a little research. I ended up finding out that the house wasn’t even up for rent, it was for sale…the info and photo were stolen from a realtor’s listing. I contacted the realtor and he said this sort of thing happens quite often.

  5. Stew Says:

    Sounds like all of you have met the same people. ;)

  6. Jane Sanders Says:

    Yes, I’ve seen plenty of craiglist scams. Whenever I have time, I e-mail them just to see how it goes.

  7. Stephanie Says:

    Ha! Ha! I have gotten similar emails from scam artists while looking for an apartment on craigslist. I noticed too that they usually use a Yahoo email account. Did your scam artist also have a Yahoo account – just curious? LOL!

  8. Sydney Says:

    Haha. i have gotten 5 of these emails in the past few days because I am looking for an apartment in NYC. Three of them have been professional music teachers all in different locations and the other two have been in different locations and have different occupations but they use the same format for the email and tell me I can only view the exterior of the apartment because the keys are with them in the country that they are currently in. I could tell it was a scam as soon as the first person emailed me with a picture of a beautiful one bedroom apt for only $580 a month. In New York? Please!!! lol

  9. Daniel C Says:

    I am a Realtor and these guys have grabbed my property info, and somehow they had the name of a tenant from many years ago that they were using as the “owner”. So beware. The only way I found out was someone had given them everything, bank accounts, SSN, name address, phone. A scammers dream. I told them immediately close everything and issue a fraud alert. They had called me asking when they could move in. They had to search to find my info, as the email they had replied to was disconnected.

    DO NOT EVER give your information out over the internet. If someone will not meet with you, there is a reason. Also, even if someone does meet with you, and hands you a card with their information, ask to see a driver’s license to confirm who they are. Any Realtor will also have their license with them that you can see. It is really unfortunate, but there are very dishonest people out there trying to get your info. I also just got this email from one of my legitimate ads:

    Hello, I was just checking for a property to rent on craigslist and found
    yours I am coming from uk england am interested in renting it. I’ll like to
    know some information regarding the property such as the total amount
    needed for move-In including the deposit..I would love to know more about
    the area. When is the ideal Move in date. Kindly get back to me with the
    answer so that we could proceed from there. Waiting for your response asap,

    and his email is:

    [email protected]

    even though he claims to be Brian Smith.

  10. Briana Says:

    I currently have my car listed for sale. And another craigslist scam that is going on appears to be as so.

    I have all of the information you could ever inquire about listed on Craigslist about my car. But I keep getting text messages from people saying “Hi, my name is ____. I am messageing (spelt incorrectly) you in reference to the ad you posted. Please send more information to my email address. [email protected]. (One has said, cash in hand.)

    Are they going to spam my e-mail account, or try and hack it? And why? Who gets paid to do this kind of stuff?

  11. Mik Says:

    Anyone that can’t and/or won’t meet you personally (go with a male friend) to go INSIDE the property is a fraud !!!