(Fanno Farmhouse photo courtesy of Wiki).
The rental environment is a haven for scammers. Referring to occupations we tend to trust, these scum-of-the-earth types play with our socio-cultural expectations to worm money out of us. One woman emailed me that her husband was in the military (trustworthy, right?), and she had to drive their truck all the way to Florida. She would not be available to show me her home (of course not), but if I sent her a deposit(!), she would ever-so-kindly forward the keys, so I could have a look on my own. The name is Tucker not Sucker.
More common is the missionary scam. Typically replete with atrocious English errors, this one is a variant of the military version. “I have had to go to Africa since I am a missionary, but if you send me the money…” Think a missionary wouldn’t steal? Think again—these ones do.
Last week, I replied to two rental ads on Craigslist Calgary and received the same story from two different people in regards to two different houses on the same day. Hey, if you’re going to steal from me, at least switch it up a bit. Here is what the scam looked like:
Thanks for your email and interest in the property. I personally own the property and also want you to know that it was due to my transfer that made me and my wife to leave the property and also want to give it out for rent and looking for a responsible person that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean at all time and the person that will rent it to take it as if it were its own. So for now, We are here in , United State in our new house and also with the keys and documents of the house, we try to look for an agent that we can give this documents before we left but could not see and we are as well as don’t want our property to be used any how in our absence that is why we took it along with us. I and my wife came over to United State for a missionary work, so i hope you will promise us to take very good care of the house. kindly get back to me on how you could take care of our house or perhaps experience you have in renting home. The rent fee is included all the utilities , no extra fee for parking, and you can rent it unfurnished.. there are sporting equipment..I am looking forward to hear from you ASAP so that i can forward you an application form to fill out and discuss on how to get the property for rent.
Many variants of the rental sting exist, and they can be found all over North America. How can we protect ourselves? Some people have taken to using rental companies only. Key indicators of online scams may be few or no indoor photos of the house, an absentee owner who asks for money, a description that reads like a polished ad, an extremely low rental price (if it looks too good to be true, it probably is), photos of sterile, glamorous furniture that looks like it came right from the furniture store, frightful English and questionable logic in the return email (see above), and—beware pet owners seeking those few available rentals—notice of a pet-friendly place! Dogs OK, cats OK, bring your hamster! A final indicator is that the scammers often end their message with “God bless you”. Clearly, they need to rediscover the nature of genuine spirituality and a supportive community.