Scam: Con artist rents out a property he has no authorization to lease.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, September 2009]
Thanks for your email and it is my gladnes to hearing from you. I am Rev Wright Water ,the owner of the house you are making enquiry of. Actually I resided in the house with my family, such as my wife and my only daugther before and recently we had packed due to my transfer from my working place and now situated in the London in UK, and presently my house is still available for rent for $889 per month including the utilities like hydro, washer and security, it is furnished. Moreso Now, i went for a Crusade
in the West Africa and i will like you to get in touch with my wife in the state for more discussion as She is with the keys and the document to the house. Pls i want you to note that, i am a kind and honest man and also i spent a lot on my property that i want to give you for rent, so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own, is that taken, it is not the money the main problem but want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i came for a check up.i do that once in a while. I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word. Where are you located and where do you see our advert also let us know if you need more pictures.
Address of the apartment:- 24225 Oak Leaf Dr Silver Spring, MD 20901
Email my wife Brenda on and she will attends to you better.
Rev Wright Water.
God Bless You.
Thanks for your email and interest in renting my apartment. I am Reverend Nelson Radold, the owner of the apartment you are making enquiry of. Actually I resided in the apartment with my family, my Husband and my only daughter before and presently we have moved out due to my transfer from my work now in West Africa. Presently my apartment is still available for rent for $880 Per Month (rent already includes utilities).
Moreso Now, i’m currently in WEST AFRICA for an international Christian follower’s crusade…. Please i want you to note that, i am a kind, htwost and trustworthy woman and also i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent, so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this apartment and want you to treat it as your own, It is not the mtwoy that is the main problem but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up…. I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word.
This is the address of the Home: (1476 THAYER AVE #102, SILVER SPRING MD 20910).. It has a Lovely home in a nice Santa Maria neighborhood. is known for excellent schools. Conveniently located with nearby shopping centers, hospitals, free ways and public transportation. This is a must see. Amenities W/D Hookups Central Heat & A/C Granite Tiled Fireplace Ceiling Fans Vaulted Ceilings Cable Available Broadband Available Custom Drapes in Living Room, Dining Room, & Master Bedroom Blinds.
SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED I WILL WANT YOU TO FILL THE RENT APPLICATION FORM.
************RENT APPLICATION FORM*************
2)Your Full Name:
2)Your Full Address:
4) Sex ?
5)How old are you?:
6)Are you married?:
7)How many people will be living in the apartment?:
8)Do you have a pet?:
9)Do you have a car?:
22)When do you intend moving in : Date ?
22)When do you intend to moving out : Date ?
23)How many months or year contract?:
24)Deposit : two or Two month Deposit are required
25)Picture of the Occupant?
TAKE NOTE: YOU CAN ONLY DRIVE BY AND SEE MY apartment FROM THE OUTSIDE AND IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED IN RENTING THE apartment GET THE APPLICATION FORM FILLED SO THAT I CAN MAKE OUT ARRANGEMENT TO SHIP OUT THE KEYS & DOCUMENT TO YOU AS SOON AS YOU ARE READY. I WOULD HAVE REALLY LOVE TO SHIP THE KEYS TO SOMEtwo IN STATE BUT I DON’T HAVE ANYBODY THERE RIGHT NOW AND I DON’T WANT TO MAKE USE OF ANY THIRD PARTY THAT IS WHY AM HANDLING MY PROPERTY MYSELF..
1476 THAYER AVE #102,
SILVER SPRING MD 20910
Monthly Rent: $880
Pets Allowed: Yes
Available : Available Now for move in.
So please get back to me today.
I await your reply ASAP.
Regards and God bless you!!!
Reverend Nelson Radold
Origins: “If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you” is a common expression used to indicate to someone that he’s being gullible, a reference to the classic scam in which a con artist absurdly dupes a naive rube into “buying” something — such as the Brooklyn Bridge — that the scammer clearly (in the eyes of any reasonable person) has no authorization to sell. However, as much as we may laugh at the image of the bridge-buying hick, the underlying premise of that type of scam still manages to snare victims, as people continue to fall prey to swindlers who offer to dispose of property that doesn’t belong to them, without sanction from the rightful owners (or their appointed representatives).
This type of fraud commonly pops up in the form of rental scams, perpetrated by crooks who copy Craigslist postings (or other online ads) for rental properties, change some of the details (such as lowering the price to make the offer more attractive and altering the contact information), then repost the same pictures and
descriptions. When inquirers respond to the ads, the phony “landlords” or “owners” send replies like the ones reproduced above, offering excuses about why they aren’t available to show the properties in person but inviting the prospective renters to drive by and/or look at the units from the outside. (Scammers frequently use the ruse of claiming that they have unoccupied homes which they are unable to show in person because they’ve moved abroad while undertaking missionary work — an excuse that both sounds plausible and helps bolster their credibility.)
Of course, anyone who sends a deposit in response to one of these faux ads (typically a wire transfer to an account in another country) will usually soon find that the “landlord” has become permanently unreachable and that the true owners of the property are completely unaware it had been rented or sold — leaving the prospective customer several hundred dollars poorer and still in need of housing.
The scam is also run on those looking for short-term accommodations, such as vacation rentals. Many an unwary soul has showed up late in the evening after a long flight and with his family in tow at the door of a home or apartment in a strange city he thought he’d rented for a few days only to find himself face-to-face with the exceedingly puzzled home’s actual owners.
How can consumers avoid falling prey to such scams? Even the most savvy among us can sometimes be taken in by sophisticated fraud schemes, but the average scammer (especially one who is operating from a foreign country over the Internet) generally wants to make quick and easy scores and doesn’t have the time or the resources to engage in elaborate ruses. Therefore, rental scams often have one or more “red flag” aspects to them that should serve as cautions to potential tenants to be especially wary:
- Owners who are in a hurry to rent a unit and are offering a lease at well below the going rate for the location and type of property:
Sometimes people do have to move abruptly before they can arrange to lease or sell their previous homes, and sometimes renters will have need to fill a particular vacancy quickly and will therefore offer a property at a discounted rate. But these are exceptional conditions, so leases offered under these circumstances should also be subject to exceptional scrutiny.
- Owners who do not make a property available for inspection by prospective renters:
Again, sometimes an abrupt move or other exigent circumstances will preclude an owner’s being available to personally show his property to prospective tenants, but it’s an extraordinary condition when a legitimate owner can’t (or won’t) arrange for someone else to handle the task of showing a rental property for him. A renter who puts down money on a unit he hasn’t been allowed to inspect to his satisfaction, inside and out, is asking for trouble. (Keep in mind that property managers, landlords, and owners generally don’t want to rent to unseen tenants any more than tenants want to rent unseen properties.)
- Owners who require you to pay money — in any form — in advance of providing you with a signed rental agreement and the keys to the property:
If you’ve demonstrated your bona fides, your ability to pay, and your interest in renting a property, the lessor should have no problem turning the property (and a copy of the signed lease) over to you at the time you make your initial deposit or rent payment.
Last updated: 30 July 2010
The Denver Post. 15 June 2009. The Washington Post. 13 June 2010.