BY RON HAMIC (R) A listing of mine was recently advertised in one of those Nigerian real-estate rental ad scams on Craigslist that attempts to sucker people out of personal information, and wiring money to a Western Union account with promises of an UNREAL DEAL!

The scam is simple:

  1. The con artist pulls the photos and address of a home that is currently listed on the market off any consumer real estate website, and offers to rent it out to people via Craigslist for a price that is way under market value. (They are now looking up public tax records to use the actual homeowner’s name in the correspondence to potential renters! Often, they’ll even create Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail addresses with those names…)
  2. The “landlord” tells you about a family emergency/missionary work/military service that has called him away on a moment’s notice to a foreign country, and how he needs to find a renter A.S.A.P.
  3. He gets all your financial information and history via the “rental application,” and once you’ve been selected, requests you to wire your deposit and first month’s rent, so he can mail the keys to you.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times over, but I’m going to hammer them home again for the readers—“If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!” Never, ever conduct any real estate transaction with someone you can’t meet or verify the identity of. This goes for consumers as well as real-estate practitioners. If you can’t see the home you are going to rent before signing a contract or making a deposit, something is definitely wrong!

Here’s an excerpt of the scammer’s email if you’re interested in seeing the pitch in action:

“Hi,

I did get your response concerning the AD I posted on Craigslist…The house is still available but presently I’m not around…I did bid for a portion of petroleum land sometime ago in West Africa and, fortunately, I won the bidding, so I have to move quickly down to Africa to have my company set up because I will still have to rebid for it in the next 10 years. I came over here with my wife, we both owned the house when we got married. As soon as we settled down here, I had a thought of selling the house, so I have to look for an agent, after getting one, we got a deal, but later my wife advised against that. She said we may not be able to win the bidding next time, in order to keep our head when we return that, we have to keep the house and it’s going to be available for up to 5 years…I reasoned with her and accepted her advise…So, I contacted the agent back and requested for my keys and documents. Later, we decided to have the house rent out because of maintenance, maintenance, i mean is by taking very good care of the house and i will be responsible for the repairs myself, we would have gave the same agent this job also, but the truth of the matter is that the agent would want to handle it professionally and the occupant may not be able to reason along with me later if I let him or her know that I’m letting it out because of the up keeping of the house…If you notice, you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the maintenance…I know there is no way I can be sure that you are the right person to live in the house because we won’t be able to see physical before sending you the keys and the documents to occupy the space…But I just had a feeling that anyone who knows what it takes to put the kind of structure down should know that up keeping of a building is mandatory, so if you belief you can take good care of the house and handle it like yours then I will be more than happy to let you rent the house. The rent is $1,000 and the deposit payment is $1,100.”

Needless to say, my clients were not thrilled about their $600,000 home being offered for rent at $1,000 per month, and the emails and phone calls they got from friends and family asking what was going on. It’s really surprising how many people browse these ads on a daily basis.

Do you have any real estate horror stories to share?

See more stories like this at HawaiiLife.com

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