But then I started googling these scammers and got answers and can’t do that. Because I know why they refer to Nigeria in their letters. Interestingly, there’s a small percentage of the population that doesn’t get that Nigerian princesses emailing for help and offering 1.2 million dollars might not be entirely legit.
A few months ago I had my first actual interactions with said Nigerians. They are now running Craigslist scams. Too fun. I had to engage.
At that time we were looking for a rental with more space and I found an add on Craigslist. The home was listed as a 3 bedroom PUD for $1,000. The picture showed a home in our neighborhood…which we knew should go for AT LEAST $500 more/month. (A few blocks from the beach in California – prices are high!) I figured it looked too good to be true, but went ahead and sent off an email:
Me: Hi! Wondering about the home for rent. What is a PUD? Where is the home? We are currently living in Grover and looking for a home with a yard, does this have a yard?
Instead of a “normal” reply with an address and an answer to the question: “does this have a yard?” I received a lengthy email which of course mentioned Nigeria within the first paragraph. As in: (my comments in bold)
Response: I resided in the house with my family before and presently we have moved out due to my transfer from my work now in Warsaw, Poland . Presently my house is still available for rent for $1000(rent already includes utilities). More so now, i am currently in Lagos , Nigeria for an international Christian follower’s crusade. [Christians!? What luck! Utilities included!? SCORE!!!]
It has a dramatic entry foyer with ceramic floor. Extremely spacious rooms throughout with lots of big windows…nice and light! New neutral paint and some newer carpet..Very quiet, low traffic area. [We lived in the area at the time and it is NOT quiet OR low traffic]. Appliances included are washer, dryer, oven,dishwasher, new fridge (7/07)…Utilities include Water,Trash,Sewer,Gas and electric.
[Insert Address & Application Here]
Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this [So glad they mentioned God many times, now I know this person is trustworthy]
After this questionable answer I started googling Craigslist scams and followed some leads to search the house on zillow.com (for sale). The house was indeed for sale on zillow, and the description sent to me matched zillow’s exactly.
Ever the daredevil, (and wondering if a bomb might fall on the car as we were driving since they would find out I was on to them) I decided to keep going with my correspondence.
Me: I just saw the same house listed as for sale, did you change your mind and decide to rent it out?
Response: YES. [Can you just see the hopefulness in the eyes? "Maybe she'll still bite!"]
Unfortunately for them, I’m just too savvy.
But here are a few things I’ve learned in follow-up research:
- Scammers know that most people will not fall for this. That’s why they make their schemes so obvious, so that when people do contact them they know they aren’t wasting their time.
- “Regular” people have fallen for these scams and been taken for LOADS of money. See this very interesting article from the New Yorker on The Perfect Mark.
- You know those silly emails that Aunt Mildred forwards from her friend Clarence from your friend’s grandma? Scammers likely “harvest” addresses from these emails, knowing that these people might be more gullible.
* I always check emails I get on cell phones blowing people’s heads off and outbreaks of knife-wielding gas station attendants on Snopes. Please encourage your family members to do the same. (The victim in the article from the New Yorker probably regrets forwarding an email promising cash from Microsoft for forwarding the email…you’ve seen those too!)
* Feel free to share this post with anyone you think may benefit. I want our innocent family members to be alert to these scams and know what passing on those emails might be subjecting them to.
Have you had any experiences with scammers?