UPDATE: We’ve heard from a person who claims her name was fraudulently used in an identity fraud situation as part of this scam. Unfortunately that last name has been used in a number of scams as well so you’ll find quite a few links about that type of fraud. As this post is nearly four years old, and the scammers have moved on to new aliases, we’re updating this post. — I have a friend who just moved to New York who was so excited to find a room in a house in midtown Manhattan for $600 a month. The guy was traveling a lot and wouldn’t be there most of the time so she could live as a house sitter just a few blocks from Times Square. She was so excited. She just couldn’t believe it was true. And guess what? It wasn’t. A quick search of Google turned up dozens of examples of the same scam being pulled all over the country. Even New York Newsday wrote about it. The hook was you would go by the place and if you liked it, you’d send a security deposit and get a key. Of course the key wouldn’t work (or you wouldn’t even get the key). Here’s a sample of the scam.
My name is <many different names>. I work for a construction company before but now, am self employed. I work on my own and I love it. I traveled to Israel a bit over a year ago and had a stunningly wonderful time learned, saw and experienced so many wonderful things, I Love Music, I admire any one who plays an instrument or Sings. Presently I am now located in Fairview, North Carolina because of my business, I deal in all kind of fabrics, texiles and traditional wears, so I travelled alot and hardly stay in one place. I believe in God, life and being around other people. Iʼm passionate, affectionate, honest, caring, spontaneous, trustworthy and I also have a sense of humor too which some of it have been described by some people. I am looking for a responsible roommate that will be able to take good care of my apartment and properties while i am away,the apartment is for long term and short term lease is also acceptable. Here is the address of the apt Midtown West/Theater District The Metro 301 W. 53rd Street, Manhattan NY 10019.Located between: Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue The apartment is fully furnished so you don’t need to worry about furnitures or electronics. Please I want you to note that I am a kind and honest man and also I spent a lot on my property that I want to give you for rent, so I will solicit for your absolute maintenance of the apartment and I would want you to treat it as your own, I would like you to keep it tidy all the time I also want you to let me have trust in you as I always stand on my word,the rental fees is $600 per month including utilities for the whole of the apartment and the damage deposit is $350. I will like you to drive by to the building at your convinient time to view the exterior of the building for you to know where the apartment is located because you will not have the opportunity to view the inside because the doors are locked and the keys are here with me in Fairview, North Carolina but if you drive by to the address and you like the exterior and environment where the apartment is located i will be happy to make an arrangement an get the keys shipped to you so that you can go and view the interior in person. I await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys of the apartment to you,please note that i am giving you the apartment base on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that we do not see yet and only putting everything into Gods hand and i will like you to drive by and view the exterior of the building today to know the area where the building is located,so please do not let us down and God bless you more as you do this and let me know as soon as you view the exterior of the apartment so that i can email you the application form to proceed further. I look forward to hearing from you.Here is a sample of the reply:
]]>Once again thanks for your response i really appreciate your willinness in renting my place and i promise you that you will never regret taking my place. The rental application form was well filled and I have considered you to be my new tenant.So the total cost you to move in to the apt is $950, $600 for the rent and $350 for the security deposit which is refundable at the end of the lease if nothing is damaged in the apt. I would be sending the apt key’s and documents to you via DHL EXPRESS to the address you filled in the application form and the shipment tracking number will be emailed to you so that you can track it to know the exact time the package will be delivered to you the next day. To make things much easier for you, if you are not able to come up with the whole $950 you can send half of the money which is $475.00 and send the rest after you have received the key’s and documents, but if you think you are able to make the whole payment once and for all then you can send the whole money. am only doing this for you to know that i really would like you to be the person to occupy the apartment and also for you to know that you are going to be receiving the keys and the documents of the apt. Moerover it is also part of the the payment i will use in paying the DHL EXPRESS in shipping the package to you. I am doing this based on trust i have in you that you are going to be taking good care of the apartment. So below are the document i will be shipping to you once i have received the payment from you.Here are the contents of the document.1) Entrance and the rooms Keys2)Paper/Permanent apartmentform(Containing your reference details)3)The apartment documentary file. 4)Payment Receipt. 5)Full address and description of the apartment.So i want you to email me back to know when you will be ready to proceed with the payment so that i can email you back with the payment information where the money will be transfered using Money Gram so i will be able to receive the money and I can get the keys and documents ship out the same day so that you can receive the key’s asap and finally move in.I await your reply ASAP.