William P Helverson

Lindsey –

Victim Location 16201

Type of a scam Rental

Since I am relocating to eastern Pa, I’ve been searching for an apartment over there through any and all websites, apps, etc. Craigslist is one of these. An ad popped up for a house in the area for a really decent price, all utilities included, fully furnished, pet friendly, the works. I was ecstatic. I quickly emailed the poster back and waited for a response. The reply started out with a story about how the seller and his wife had just moved to Nigeria to work with a program called Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education, and would be gone for 2-3+ years. The poster had "made up my mind to put up my house for rent to who ever that will take good care of it." He informed me that he was not currently around to show the inside of the house, but if I wanted to, I could go to the neighborhood and look at it from the outside. He then asked how long I intended to stay and when I planned on moving in. Then, he included a list of all the utilities and amenities that were included with the house, and it seemed like a dream. Everything included for that price? It seemed like a miracle or a scam, and I intended to find out which.

The poster also included a tenant rent application form, which included some grammatical and spelling errors (a small red flag in my mind). Many of the questions were too personal; not something a landlord would ask. He also asked in this application how soon I could have the rent sent to him, and how many months I could pay upfront. At this point, I was still hopeful, but there was a seed of skepticism in the back of my mind. And so, while I waited for a response to my polite but brief email asking if there was a written lease contract and how he would show me the inside if I was interested, I did some research. I googled the seller’s name, email address, and phone number, and found nothing (aside from the fact that his US phone number was in fact from an Ohio location, not a Pennsylvania one). Then, I picked out key details from his sob story, and found that there had been several scams involving the “Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education” line. So at this point, I was pretty disappointed. This apartment had seemed like a dream come true. Still, I waited for the seller’s reply, wanting to know how he would continue to bait me.

His reply was simply “type it out and email it back to me,” in which he reattached the rental application form. Since I knew almost without a shadow of a doubt it was a scam at this point, I informed him that I’d first like to know if there was a written lease contract. His response, riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and including zero punctuation (a big red flag for me), stated: “I was ones working with the Mortgage so i have to stop working with them because i could not make up with the contract and i also find out that they were putting the rent high so i deiced so cancel my contract with them, That is why i am doing this on my own” I simply replied that I could not give out personal information without a legally binding contract.

I’m naturally paranoid, so luckily I didn’t give out much personal information, or make any payments, but I know that a lot of people are much more trusting than I am. Therefore, I wanted to share this story in an attempt to help others avoid scams like this one.

P.S. – I googled the house that the seller had listed and found out that it is in fact listed on realty websites (as a house for sale, not for rent). The craigslist poster had simply copied one of the photos and the information from those websites and pasted them onto his ad. If you’re questioning the legitimacy of an ad, google the property address (if it is listed). Chances are, if it’s a scam, the real advertisement is listed somewhere online.

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