How to Spot a Scam

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fraud Tip of the Day

Nigerian Rental Scams - How to detect and avoid them

Nigerian rental schemes involve conning people into wiring rent money overseas. These online rental scams are on the rise so it's important to know what to look for to avoid being ripped off!
We've seen so many stories about Nigerian style rental scams that we've decided to devote a tip of the day to them in the hopes that renters and landlords being targeted by these scams can recognize what's going on before it's too late.

Nigerian scams have many variations but boil down to conning people into sending money overseas through money wire transfer services like Western Union. Some of these schemes are obvious and easy to dismiss. Others are more elaborate and detecting them can be quite challenging because they appear to be legitimate offers at first glance. These are the scams you have to worry about. Luckily, there are warning signs that can tip you off before you get scammed.

Rental Scam Warning Signs

You are contacted via email regarding a property. You may have posted on Craigslist, for instance, so email is hardly unexpected. Be on the lookout for poor grammar or comments that make no sense.

The request comes from outside the country. This may turn out to be a legitimate inquiry but once you know it originated from somewhere overseas proceed with caution.

There is a sense of urgency. If you feel pressured to act quickly because of some immediate need, be especially cautious. Scam artists count on decisions made in haste.

Third parties become involved. If the person wanting to rent your property needs to use a friend or someone else as an intermediary in order to pay, you should be at your own highest alert level. This is a common Nigerian Scam ploy.

You will be over-payed. This is one of the tricks these scam artists use to get money out of you. Normally, you would be the one receiving cash in a transaction. In this case, however, the check or money order is made out for more than you requested. Oops. Now they'll want you to wire the extra amount back to them. Once you do, they back out of the entire arrangement and days later you will find out that the check or money order was a forgery and you're stuck with the loss.

How to avoid Nigerian rental scams
Do not let someone pay more than you asked for.

Do a web search for the renter's name to see what comes up.

If the payment arrives in the form of a money order, inspect it carefully in case it's a counterfeit.

Despite your best attempts to determine its authenticity, it may still turn out to be a forgery.

Do not let someone else use your name or Social Security number to buy a property, especially if they offer to pay you for using it.

Don't do anything until the money order or check clears the bank.

You could be pressured to act sooner and you might even receive threats. Don't give into anything. Nigerian scams depend on you sending money to someone before the money order clears the bank.

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