It’s National Consumer Protection Week. As part of this week’s event focusing on consumer education, we’re posting a daily consumer tip.
One of our Assistant Attorney Generals in Spokane is selling a house. She’s had people contact her saying they’ve rented her house through an offer on Craigslist. The unsuspecting parties submitted an application with financial identification information (which can be used to steal a person’s identity) and sent a security deposit by Western Union to a nice landlord working in Nigeria with homeless and disabled kids.
Of course, the story is a complete crock that we hear again and again. In fact, here’s a bit of one of these scam rental pitches, courtesy of a consumer who was kind enough to send it along:
My husband and I own the house and also want you to know that it was due to my husband transfer to West Africa , Nigeria that makes us to leave the house and also want to give it out for rent and looking for a responsible person and God fearing person who can take very good care of the house in my absence..we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean all the time and the person that will rent it to take it as if it were its own. We came to West Africa under the World Health Organization. I hope you will promise me to take very good care of the House.. The House is very big and nice and it is in a nice area I have received many proposals today for our property.
So get back to me if you know you could take care of our house or perhaps experience you have in renting home. Hope you are okay with the price of $700 per month and the security Deposit is $500.Get back to me for the rental application...You can go and view the property.
The crook asks that the deposit be made by Western Union or Money Gram. The money is gone forever. The house was never for rent or even owned by the scammer. Here’s what another consumer told us about falling for the trick:
“I have wired 700 to a [person] at the email listed below for a deposit on a rental house. I was told when I wired the remainder of the rental amount I would receive keys and documents from Federal Express as he had to return to Houston Texas to be with his wife. I wired the money to [him] and he asked me to wire the remainder of the money [a woman] at the same address as his wife just delivered her baby…I am [now] broke and a single parent of four kids.”
When renting a home, always deal locally with people you can easily meet in person -- who can show you the rental and validate that they own or legally manage it. If you follow this one rule, you will avoid the vast majority of scam attempts on Craigslist.
-Dan Sytman, with writing help from Assistant Attorney General Brooks Clemmons-