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8/28/2012 7:30:00 AM
Public warned of possible Nigerian scam involving real estate
Complaints voiced over online postings of housing rentals

Joe VanDeLaarschot
Lakeland Times Reporter

The Vilas County Sheriff's Department is reporting it has received several complaints involving possible fraudulent Craigslist postings for apartments or other housing for rent.

According to a department news release, subjects responding to the advertisements have received emails from person(s) purporting themselves to be in the ministry and own local property and are attempting to rent the property.

The suspects then have prospective renters complete an online rental application including full name, address, date of birth, etc. Further correspondences request that a security deposit be made in the form of a Money Gram or Western Union to a fictitious name and forwarded to Nigeria.

Instructions indicate that once the deposit is received the keys for the rental property will be forwarded by courier. Authorities said fortunately the reporting parties felt suspicious through the corresponding emails and no money was exchanged or lost.

It is believed that information about property in the Vilas County area is being pulled from MLS internet listings and fake Craigslist advertisements are then created using real property.

Craigslist warns users to avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally.

Authorities advise the public to be beware any arrangement involving Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfer, or a landlord/owner who is out of the country or cannot meet you in person.

The Vilas Sheriff's Department is warning buyers and sellers to be careful and offers the following tips to protect themselves from being a victim of fraud:

• Do not reply to emails from people located outside of the United States. They most likely are scam emails looking to scam you out of your money. You have no protection from the US government when dealing with non-US buyers.

• Most Cashier's Checks or money orders offered to sellers are counterfeit.

• Do not accept or wire money anywhere, especially overseas via Western Union or Moneygram.

• Never give out personal information to anyone. (i.e. bank name, account number, mortgage company info)

Authorities advise to use caution when replying to email requests about your property for sale. If it looks suspicious, immoral or illegal, it probably is.

You should definitely raise a red flag if:

• The person sends you an email saying they want to "buy your house" without even seeing the home (99 percent of buyers want to see the home or other real estate before making an offer).

• The person is from a country other than the United States. The majority of people who have tried to scam our listings are from Nigeria, with others from South Africa, UK, France and Italy.

• The email mentions "depositing funds" or "certified cashiers check" before seeing your home.

• You do an Internet search on the phone number or email address they give you and it is the number to an Internet Cafe or other suspicious information turns up.

• Some scammer's emails are so obviously incredulous that it's comical. For example, a son of a Great Chief is not going to be interested in your condo Eagle River.

• Look out for emails that have the words: inheritance, next of kin, sheik, great chief, international business tycoon.

What if you receive

an offer?

If you received an email that may be a scam and you are tempted to respond to the offer, stop and ask yourself important questions:

• Why would someone want to buy my home without ever seeing it?

• Why would someone from a foreign country be interested in my home?

• Why is this person asking for private information about me but asking nothing about the home?

• Why would you share your personal or financial information with someone you don't know?

How can you

protect yourself?

• Never, under any circumstances, give out personal or financial information - it is not necessary until closing. For example if the person emailing you wants to know "whose name the ownership is in," "is there an insurance certificate," or "are you a U.S. citizen," etc.

• Know who you are dealing with - confirm the buyer's name, street address, and telephone number. Do a search on the internet for the name and telephone number. You may find some revealing information from doing a quick search on Google, Yahoo or MSN.

• Avoid any dealings with people from outside the United States.

• You have extremely limited protection from fraud when dealing with persons of countries outside of the United States. These scammers know there will not be any legal action brought against them.

• If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch.

You can visit that bank branch to determine if the Fake cashier checks and money orders are common and banks may unknowingly cash them and hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.

• Never accept a check for more than your selling price. This is a definite scam. The buyer offers to pay more than the asking price and wants you, in return, to write a check for the difference. Their check will most certainly bounce and you will be out thousands of dollars.

• Never agree to wire funds via Western Union, Moneygram or any other service. Never write a check to a buyer - a legitimate buyer will not pressure you to do so, and you have limited recourse if there is a problem with a wire transfer.

• Resist pressure to "act now."

Consumers who have been victims of the check overpayment scam or other fraudulent activities should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or contact your local law enforcement agency.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: Brian Jones

Honestly, with all the warnings involving scams and especially online Nigerian scams over the years, if you are so stupid to send money to Nigeria for a Northwoods Wisconsin rental, you deserve what you get and you need a keeper.

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