Miklos
« Je donne mon avis non comme bon mais comme mien. » — Michel de Montaigne

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21 octobre 2011

Analysis of a Craigslist rental scam

Classé dans : Actualité — Miklos @ 1:56

1. Martin recently put up an ad in the Craigslist “Paris rooms and shares” section for a room he will be renting later in Paris. He provided much detailed information about the room, the apartment it’s in, the building and the area: size, amenities, location, cost, date at which it will be available and for how long.

2. He then received an email from one interested party. The subject line said in all caps: “I’M INTERESTED IN RENTING YOUR ROOM”, the “To:” field indicates “undisclosed-recipients” and the sender was one Joel Blum, whose email address was blumjoel@honeywellgroup.co.uk. The content of that mail was:

Hi, I saw your apartment advert and am interested in renting it. I will like to know the modalities for renting it like the duration, total cost, and any other condition. I’m a senior consultant at Honey well international, Aberdeen united kingdom. I will be in France in a couple of weeks time(not confirmed my dates yet) and during my stay i will be working with Honeywell International, Paris. I will appreciate it if i hear from you in time as i will want to conclude the rental process asap. you can reach me on (44) 7762645784
 
Thanks and sincere regards
Blum Joel

3. Several details arise the curiosity of Martin: the hidden addressee list, the question about the “duration, cost and any other condition” – all of which were mentioned at length in the ad; the fact that a “senior consultant” would not know how to spell correctly Honeywell (the first occurrence), and that the period (“in a couple of weeks time”) didn’t match at all the availability dates he had mentioned in his ad.

4. Martin writes back to Joel Blum asking him for the dates he would like to rent the place. Joel replies:

Baically looking from the 1st of November to 5th November is it available from this period?

5. No, it is not (the ad said so), and definitely not just for five days (the ad said so too). At this point, Martin starts crosschecking.

6. He first notices that the emails which Joel sends him come from a computer located in Oxford, which is quite far away from Aberdeen.

7. He then finds out that the Honeywell International domain name is honeywell.com, but definitely not honeywellgroup.co.uk as in Joel’s address (this is known as cybersquatting); there is, however, a honeywellgroup.com which is located in… Nigeria (no comment), as well as a honeywell.co.uk, which is why Joel couldn’t have used that last domain name. The one he provided is a private domain registered to… well, see for yourself (the street address in Oxford is that of a restaurant and of an accountancy and bookkeeping services).

8. Now Joel had provided a cell phone number in his first email. Martin looks it up the web, and lo and behold, he finds it in a report about a “con artist” said to be calling himself George Moretti, MrBal and Kelly Andrea. The website he is quoted as providing as that of his (fake) company in that scam has been suspended, and the domain name is registered to one Carlo Archille with a UK email address… which, in turn, is identified in the Fake Bank Database as that of one Pama Kostkowski, holder of another fake web site.

Now, you may ask, what is Joel Blum’s master plan? Martin guesses the scam works as follows:

1. Joel shows his interest for Martin’s room. He asks for details, says he is definitely interested and is about to pay in advance, and so he asks for the street address and other particulars. If Martin calls the number Joel gave him, Joel will have in turn Martin’s number.

2. Now Joel has enough information to take Martin’s ad, and republish it as his on another real-estate web site (there are plenty of them) but with such low prices that he is sure to get many interested parties to write to him, some of whom are unfortunately quite naïve about the field.

3. One of them will be willing to commit to take the room from Joel. Joel will provide him with the address of the room, and ask him to wire the funds to the country where he currently lives, usually via Western Union or some other wire service.

4. When the renter, as happy as a clam for having found such a great deal, arrives a few days later at said address, he is up for a house-sized surprise: Martin had never clinched a deal with him and will definitely not refund him the funds he had wired to someone else who, in the interim, had collected them without having had to identify himself…

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3 commentaires »

  1. One of the apparent recognizable features of this kind of real-estate spam is a reply which shows that its sender has not read the ad:

    • 1. He doesn’t fill the conditions (kind of tenant, dates, etc.), and/or
    • 2. He asks for details which are already laid out in the ad (description and photos – there is a map and a photo; cost of utilities – the ad mentions it’s included in the specified rent).

    Also: these scammers tend to send several times a day their messages, under different nicknames and slightly different text, but the style and the gist are the same: yesterday, two requests (12 hours apart) in broken French apparently from a man (first nickname « Brenard », second « Carengltd ») looking for a room for his daughter (the ad requested a man) who is coming to « your city » (how generic) for 8 months at least (the ad mentioned availabily for 2-6 months).

    Commentaire par Miklos — 24 octobre 2011 @ 7:21

  2. Another recent apparent scam in the Paris Craigslist housing section advertises for « EUR600 Decent room available » as follows:

    This apartment is well organized,furnished and newly painted.This apartment does not attract any extra charge,it is all included in the rental charge.You enjoy facilities such as heating,cooling,gas,water and so on…
    Get back to me to get the full details of the apartment.

    When searching the web for this ad, it shows up as having been put verbatim (including the missing spaces after punctuation) since July on other sites for housing ads, in such cities as Lisbon, Copenhagen, Eindhoven or Brussels…

    An ad which doesn’t describe the goods (in this case: the room – size, furniture, etc. -, the apartment – size, floor, etc. -, the other tenants, the neighborhood) and which requires mailing the « owner » for further information should be at best disregarded.

    Commentaire par Miklos — 28 novembre 2011 @ 10:52

  3. [...] if you wonder how those scams work, read here. In most cases, these scammers say they are in the UK (whence you should wire them the monies in [...]

    Ping par Miklos » How to detect Craigslist’s rental scams — 18 février 2012 @ 22:06

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