Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scams of all kinds

The world wide web is the wild west of scams. I blogged last year about some of the circumstances in which scam artists tried (and sometimes succeeded) to relieve Lincoln residents of their cash. A new one to our vicinity surfaced recently, but it is well-known. The first report of this in Lincoln I am aware of was made by a local property owner on January 26.

This one targets people who are seeking places to rent in online listings, such as craigslist. The thief finds a online real estate listing, often of foreclosed homes set for auction, then poses as the owner of the property in an online ad, and claims to have the property for rent. The property actually exists, so if the victim looks it up on the local real estate site, the information is there, and matches the “for rent” ad. The scammer can scrape real data and even photos from the auction or real estate listing to bolster the victim’s confidence. The not-really-the-owner claims that he or she is out of the country for a few years, and is seeking to rent the place. All the victim needs to do is wire the damage deposit and the first months rent to a destination in someplace like London.

All the contacts are via email, and the thief may use an email address that is some derivation of the actual owner’s name. When I see or hear about these kinds of things, one of the first things I do is to simply Google the keywords: in this case I used craigslist house for rent scam. Many of the results that this returned read almost the same as the narrative in Officer Aaron Beasley’s Incident Report.

This case came to light when the real owner of the property starts receiving phone calls from prospective renters seeking more information. These are people who have done their due diligence—they’ve gone beyond the online ad, found the owner’s information and placed a phone call instead of relying only on the email address in the “for rent” ad. Good for them.

Many of these scams are virtually untraceable, as the trail normally often leads to someplace like Nigeria. I know this is frustrating for the property owner who’s good name is besmirched, but we just don’t have the resources to devote a team of technical investigators to international travel in order to lance at windmills.

7 comments:

JIM J said...

Good blog today. The new recruit blog is very good also, much to my surprise. Good job recruits, I thought I would compliment them as they may be around to help me with my walker someday (smiles)
Here is a point I think is important about responding to a craigslist ad.
When a person responds to an ad, it will send the email address you use in responding. You should use an email account that is exclusive for this venture. If you use one that you have for much of the online work you do, the address can reveal a ton of personal information about you. Also, if a person wants to meet you for a transaction for a sale, it is best, if you can, to meet at a place in the day and at a store that has decent security cameras. HyVee is on of my choices, and they have great food and coffee. Thats all.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

Speaking of Craigslist scammer/robbers, how is this community pillar's burglary case going? They're still behind in updating chores, so I thought I'd ask. Nothing like a robbery charge to follow one's burglary case.

Oh, here's the main thing to do when considering any craigslist ad: Read and heed the prominently-posted warnings against scams and other forms of victimization on the Craigslist site! For instance, they warn you to never, ever wire money, as does ebay, yet once in a while, some pinhead will do just that. I have little sympathy for those who crawl over a warning sign in order to get to the hazard beyond.

I know I shouldn't have, but that tiger was so pretty, and I just had to climb over the fence and into the pit to pet the big kitty.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine that is retired from law enforcement in Colorado recently sent me an E-Mail alert about a scam involving telephone calls from bogus CENSUS workers asking for personal information. These scammers are always searching for new ways of stealing your information.
Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Excellent work noticing, identifying, and nailing this complete dweeb.

Now, state law needs tweaked to easily allow the aggregation of several serialized vandalism misdemeanors into one felony vandalism, with attempt also being a (lesser) felony (perhaps Class IIIa and Class IV, respectively), so that a plea bargain to attempted still nails them hard for the rest of their life.

Anonymous said...

We ran into this same concept when trying to purchase used motorcycles recently. A couple of sellers were "out of the country" for a bit but were happy to have the "mint condition bike shipped" for a song. What great guys! It's amazing how real they can make it seem... initially.

Steve said...

Some of the best scams are those warning you of a scam. No one wants to be scammed, so when they receive a call, or email, from someone pretending to be watching out for them, they often fall for it. I was so proud of my mother last week. She is pretty trusting and has a hard time saying no to people who want to sell her something. However, when someone called and left a message claiming to be from the fraud department of a bank she had an account with and needing information from her, she didn't call back to the number that was left for her. Instead, she called the bank's listed phone number and asked if there was problem with her account. In this case, it turned out to be a valid call questioning some purchases she had made that didn't fit her normal spending pattern. It could just as easily been someone phishing for her account information.

ulfwolf said...

Perhaps I can add to this that the best way to guard against being ripped off by online sales or auctions is to use a bona fide online escrow company. Although it does add some cost, that will take uncertainty out of the transaction.

For my money, the best bona fide online escrow (and there seems to be ten fraudulent escrow sites for every bona fide one) is probably Escrow.com (http://escrow.com). In fact, it’s the only one that eBay recommends.

Take care,

Ulf Wolf