One of my acquaintances told me today of an innovative scam.
So this friend of mine posted an advertisement for renting her apartment out on craigslist. As soon as she posted the ad, an email response came that looked absolutely legitimate.
The respondent claimed that he was a professor in the UK and would be visiting the US on a sabbatical. He even listed a phone number for contact as well as gave some very legitimate looking references. The respondent also said that he wanted to rent the apartment in about 1 months’ time. So far all good. My friend contacted the respondent over the phone and there was nothing odd about the conversation.
In the subsequent conversations, the respondent requested my friend to collect delivery of the furniture for his apartment (which he had indicated that he was going to rent). The respondent said that he would send a check to her and she should then collect the delivery of the furniture and pay the furniture company out of her own pocket. The respondent even sent in a personal check to my friend in advance. She deposited it and sure enough, the amount showed up in the bank account. But what had her spooked out, was how could someone give away a check to some one just like that. For some reason, due to a weird hunch, she decided that she was not going to engage in any financial transactions on the behalf of someone who was sitting hundreds of miles away who she barely knew. In the end, it was this hunch that saved her from losing the money.
So the respondent (thinking that my friend had agreed to undertake the transaction on his behalf) gave her the phone number and information of the furniture company. My friend googled the furniture company but could not find anything. Moreover, the furniture company would not even pick up the phone. This put my friend in doubt over the dubiousness of the potential renter. As it turned out, that the check bounced a couple of days later and if she’d paid the furniture company it might have been used as a way to steal money from my unsuspecting friend.
I guess what could be interesting to know here is that if there was a legitimate phone number (say from Google voice) and a legitimate website (which costs a few dollars for a month now), then my friend could have possibly been duped.
This serves as a reminder to us of the reality of the world we’re living in where scammers are looking for an opportunity to dupe us.