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 Surely a rental scam- but I actually met the scammer!?

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potatoman
Hello I'm New here!


Joined: 20 Aug 2011
Posts: 3


PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 9:33 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Ok so having nothing better to do I was doing some scambaiting (it's something I do from time to time, I haven't joined up to any scambaiting forums before). Was looking for short term apartment rental in Singapore, and replied to an ad that's been posted on a few free sites (craiglist amongst others).

In this situation, after a few warning flags I did extensive background checking, and I'm convinced it's a scam. But here's the kicker - today I organised a viewing of the apartment, and I was certain there would be a cancellation. No!! I actually met the girl advertising the apartment. I would actually move in, but I'm so convinced it's a scam, I had to tell her I would only hand money over when I have my luggage at the door (more on that later). I'm too worried about someone changing the locks on the door or something, this is the only way I can see the scam ending. In truth, would probably be worse if I had all my stuff in the apartment then they decided to change the locks LOL. Seriously, I had it all planned out in my head, that if I did meet someone, they would make some excuse about having lost the keys or something, so I was amazed when shown the apartment, and it actually matched the photos.

Anyway I'm wanting comments on what people think about this, I mean maybe I'm wrong - but there is a way to check, so if anyone at all can help me confirm this is a scam (will detail how to later), please do, as I'd like to get to the bottom of this. Now I could confirm the scam myself by asking about the inconsistencies, but she'll be onto me then, and I won't have the opportunity to bait any further.

So here we go, there's a lot to digest..

<b>18-Aug-2011</b>
I send SMS for ad posted here: http://classifieds.singaporeexpats.com/showproduct.php?product=190440&cat=122
Apartment for S$280 in Orchard Chinatown. Phone contact 8168-7401, poster ID 'pikachoo', posted 14-Aug-2011.

Response: "This is a master room. The $280 is for common rooms with shared bathrooms. We only accept singles for couples per room. No sharing. The master room is $300 per week. Excluding utilities. It comes fully furnish with tv, wifi, washer, dryer. This is a private apt, not hdb. The other tenants in the apt is long term white collar professionals. An Australian guy and Canadian guy. Thanks and regards.

So I give her a call back immediately, and talk with her a bit. All sounds good, I ask about the guys I'll be sharing with, she says they're often out of Singapore on business, so I mightn't even get to see them [red flag]. I tell her I'm looking for a place pretty soon, if she could send pictures, if all looks good we can arrange viewing. The says she has another party interested in the apartment, and will contact me if that falls through [partial red flag, adding sense of urgency].

<b>19-Aug-2011</b>
She sends through pictures later next morning:
"hi sorry for the late reply I was out till very late last night. the room is still available. It is a master room in Chinatown. pix are attached. This is a 1700 sq ft apartment directly above chinatown mrt. The flat is located at people park center (note: people park center and not people park complex. yeah it gets confusing sometimes!) The room comes fully furnished, study desk, tv etc. Note the bathroom is small. The other tenants are long term. Australian guy and Canadian guy both white-collar professionals. That spends most of the time travelling. The place is very clean as the maid comes every week for 5 hours. Wifi is also included. There is a washer and dryer but no cooking facilities. (fridge and microwave is provided)"
[red flag, maid 5 hours a week for a small apartment?? especially since, as described later, the apartment is bare, doesn't look lived in]

along with SMS
"Sorry for the late reply. Have sent u email. Pls text me if u are interested. As I am heading to office now and would be in meetings till lunch time. Thanks and regards."

So email conversation goes as follows

me: The room looks great, so if I wanted to move in, how exactly should we proceed?
her: Just pay the Room rental price of $300 per week and the utility of $50 per week up front multiply by the number of weeks you intend to stay. There is a $100 refundable deposit which will be returned to you when you leave. I would just need a copy of your passport, that is it.
her: Are you still interested in the room? the reason I am asking is that I will be overseas from tomorrow late afternoon. So if you intend to take the room I need to make the arrangements. Before I go.
[red flag, she's splitting the scene]
me: am interested, but in terms of arrangements what I meant is how we go about this, do I pay on arrival at the apartment, do I meet you at the apartment a day before to get shown around, and pay/collect keys etc? Just have to juggle moving into the apartment with current hotel rental (going hotel rental by the day at the moment).
her: hi yes payment upfront on arrival at the apartment. I will give you a receipt and the keys and wifi password. if you want to come earlier to inspect the place before checking out of your hotel to be sure. That is ok as well. I will then pass you the key and you can decide at your on leisure pace on what time you want to move in. so if you want to meet tomorrow say 11 am? that is ok as well.
me: Hi sorry for the delay. 11am meeting will be fine with me, so we can meet at the Chinatown MRT? I'll check my email around 10:30am for confirmation from you that 11am is fine, or alternatively just send a message, then I'll head over. Will any of the other tenants be there, I know you said some of them aren't living there all the time (there were three others living there, right)?
her: ok c u Smile . we meet at chinatown mrt. People Park Complex exit. 2 others are living there. I would need a copy of your passport if you are checking in. Also could you please share what profession you are in? Thanks! The other 2 long term tenants (6 months minimum) are finance and IT.
[major red flag, active listing I found later says there are 3 tenants there]
me: I work in the IT sector (software programmer), right now I'm looking for work. Out of interest, what is the monthly rate for long term rental at this apartment? I thought Australia was expensive for rent, but Singapore seems more expensive again. Will bring my passport along, see you soon.
me: Oh sorry forgot to ask, were you a friend of the tenants (landlord), or operating as an rental agent?
her: long term the room rent is $1450. yes! rent in SG is expensive! no my parents own the place but we don't live there. (so there is no agent fees) there ask my help to get long term tenants as part of their retirement income. the english engineer occupying the room has just left. I am looking for long term tenants for that room but in the interim if the room is vacant, short term visitors are welcome.

So at this point I'm committed to meeting her, scam or not - if it's not a scam, good have some cheap accomodation, if it is, I'm happy to play along.

<b>20-Aug-2011</b>
I'm researching scams until the wee hours of the morning, trying to find a precedent, but cannot find one. I have not read a single scam article where you got to not only meet the scammer, but view the apartment. I read about one case, where a guy and his lawyer signed documents (but I don't think viewed the apartment). When the person went to the apartment at the move in date, it was already occupied (I think managed to take legal action though).. So I start researching the ads, reverse image search, phone number search etc, to see where that leads.

So first hit, user 'pikachoo' has a second ad posted, which is the Chinatown MRT one (looks to be same property I'm going to view). This ad posted 8-August-2011.
http://classifieds.singaporeexpats.com/showproduct.php/product/189993
Multiple red flags - master bedroom picture is different from what she sent, one of the other pictures matches what she sent, so one can assume it's the same apartment, sort of.. Ad says sharing with three other people (Chinese girl as well), not two as indicated. Advertised for long term rental (6 months minimum). Asking price listed as $1850, but ad itself states $1950, as though it's a rush job.

Second hit, a different user (on the same site) 'natsu', has posted similar ad on 14-Aug-2011, with the same contact number..
http://classifieds.singaporeexpats.com/showproduct.php?product=190442
This ad is worded almost exactly the same. Except the master bedroom picture actually matches the one I was sent in email. It only displays the one picture. Price listed as $1450, ad states $1600, so again all these inconsistencies. So ad same, price and pictures different.

Third hit, http://singapore.craigslist.com.sg/roo/2546286829.html, posted 15-Aug-2011.
Cut down version of the previous two ads, but has a *different* contact number. Price at $1600

When I do a search on that new contact number, I see they've advertised multiple share accomodations, all with a similar kind of description (not in Chinatown though).

Ok so I think you'll agree something is grossly wrong with this picture, I can simply ask the girl what is going on, and unless she has a bloody good explanation (is legit), chances are she'll just realize she's been caught out and no longer play with me Sad.

<b>**The meeting**</b>

So I head off the the designated spot, and to my amazement she doesn't cancel. I actually meet her, and get taken to the apartment - walk straight past a security guard at the building as well, bold as you like. Kind of wanted to talk to him afterwards.. I notice her digging through her backpack to find the key, I see at least 5-6 sets of keys.. Now the apartment is exactly as in the pictures she sent me by email. However aside from a microwave and kettle, all I see is the master room and a big arse mostly empty loungeroom except for a couch and table with flowers (as in photos). It simply doesn't look like the place is being lived in, if I had to guess, it's how a real estate agent would present the place for inspections. Note in the ad it said limited cooking facilities, that's because from what I could see, the kitchen simply wasn't decked out with what you'd need to cook properly.
Anyway I explain to her I feel uncomfortable handing money over in advance, I'd rather pay on check-in. I go on to explain that there's a lot of rental scams in Singapore, and it's not unheard of for the locks to simply be changed on someone, and what kind of recourse would I have from that. She actually makes the offer to put me in touch with one of the other flatmates by phone, to have a chat with them. Wow, that's what I was going to suggest to see if it put her off, she's got her bases covered. I say look if you can have a friend wait at the apartment for tomorrow, I'll hand the money over then, no problem. Apparently she doesn't know anyone who could do this for her, plausible but unlikely. She says she's away for a week, so I say ok maybe when you get back I can check in, she agrees, and I leave.

So, there you have it. Can someone please shed some light on this scam. It is a scam, right? If someone can contact her on that number, and organise a viewing, it will confirm it's a scam. Because she said she's going to be away for at least a week, and nobody will be available to let me into the apartment. If it is indeed a scam, oh what a beautiful opportunity for scambaiting!! But it just seems beyond belief that she would present in person, if it is a scam. I'm really confused on this one. Finally, Orchid/Chinatown area seems to be a known rental scam area, but usually you get the wire transfer in advance thing..

All the scam experts out there, please help and share your insights!!
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JimBoy
Master Baiter


Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 154
Location: Nigeria gettin' my money


PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:10 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Many scams involve tricking a victim's belief into thinking that they will get rich in the end. (For example, moving $32.5 million out of the country requires a small fee.) Others work on greed by providing goods at insanely cheap prices. I once had a friend who spotted a truck selling dvd players. He was apparently selling them cheap, and so my friend decided to buy some. The seller said "Ok let me find some unopened ones", and came around. My friend got around 1-3 boxes.

When he came home, he opened them and they were full of bricks. So some of these can be really convincing. Here are some fraud tips from forentbyowner.com

Quote:
Unable to perform a credit check on a prospective tenant, i.e., wrong or no social security number.
Emails are overly polite, very poorly written or express excessive eagerness to rent without having inspected the property.
Tenant does not send funds as promised or delays providing requested information.
Email is sent from another country or the tenant claims to live in one country but email is sent from another with inadequate explanation.
Beware of comments such as, “I need to hear from you today”, “I am arriving next week and need to establish residency” or any indication of extreme urgency early in your communications.
Tenant asks you not to cash a rent or security deposit check, or asks you to purchase items or contract services on his behalf.
Finally, never provide your bank account number, bank routing number or other financial or personal information.


Some of these may not apply to many scammers, but I assume that if what your encountering really is a scam, then you are dealing with professionals.

(There have been instances where the "F.B.I" raids the property or good in question, arresting the "seller" and "confiscating" your cash in the end, they disappear with the seller but you are left alive...)

Some other signs:

Quote:
Scammer posts rental ad on a large free classifieds site and makes rental price extremely low.
The victim finds the ad and wants to rent the property.
Communication between the scammer and victim begins.
Scammer tells victim he is out of the country on business.
To ensure the victim has funds. the scammer asks the victim to wire money ($2,000) to any of the victims friends. This is suppose to make the victim feel better because they are wiring it to their own friend. <-Flatmates part of this?
The scammer asks to see the receipt that funds have been transfered to the victims friend through MoneyGram
With Money orders, the recipient can pick up the funds anywhere in the world. With the information on the receipt, the scammer picks up the money.
- rentalscams.org

Then again, since you met in real-life, it is certain you aren't dealing with a lone wolf low-life scammer. You may be dealing with a real person, or even few professionals or a gang. One way to be absolutely sure it's a scam is to find out that you lost your money after purchasing. Of course, this isn't an option. I would consider redacting the phone number in your last post until we know for sure.

Your red flags do stand out though. That's good that your aware of rental and property scams. Be careful however, since it's possible you could be maimed or injured. (Have a police friend?)

On the other hand, you could be paranoid. But hey, paranoia can save your cash. If you really want to purchase the apartment, get her passport or I.D. Find out what her name is. (Did she tell you?)

There really are alot of redflags here, and makes me a bit willy. If you think this is a scam, I wouldn't converse with them any longer. (They know your face) Just politely close the deal, and get some police help. Ask the police for advice even.

Rule #1 Don't die by a scammer. Wink
Rule #2, DON'T GET SCAMMED!
Rule #3, Follow rule number 1 and 2.
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potatoman
Hello I'm New here!


Joined: 20 Aug 2011
Posts: 3


PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:20 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Thanks for the feedback, I'm most interested just to see how the scam works, and how they can be so bold about it. Say they do simply change the locks, I'd be camping outside that property every day for the next week just to get closure (as you just know they would be bringing other people to view it). The phone number is there in the posted ads, so I can't really retract it - but for those reading, they will understand the party is still considered innocent at this stage. They might just be guilty of some very incorrect/inconsistent rental listings Smile.

I have the email name only, I never requested ID, nor did I provide any. If I knew this was a scam (why I'd like to confirm it), I would 100% be getting police involved. Don't know exactly how they would proceed to investigate though, if at all. I do have a foreign SIM I can use to contact her again, and I will do that in the absence of any external assistance before the week is up, to see if I can organise another appointment this week (when such a thing shouldn't be possible). I'm on something of a mission to put an end to this scam, if it is one. Singapore is the last place you'd want to rough someone up, so while there might be a physical risk, given I have a phone number and address (and no doubt CCTV footage at the building), would be a silly move for the scammers.

For reference, I have also reposted this on the associated website scamwarners.com (http://www.scamwarners.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=22452).
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Jeannette
Distinctly Average


Joined: 21 Oct 2006
Posts: 2158
Location: Stalking Nick Riewoldt


PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:23 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

potatoman wrote:
....For reference, I have also reposted this on the associated website ...

... and you have been told that it is dangerous to

- bait with your real life details

- meet scammers face to face. Now please follow this advice.

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potatoman
Hello I'm New here!


Joined: 20 Aug 2011
Posts: 3


PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 12:18 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

This just highlights the importance of identifying if this is a scam. If people don't realize it's a scam, they will end up meeting the scammer, and things could get ugly if they get scammed for money then go to lengths to recover it. Understand this is Singapore, not Nigeria, and I probably put myself at more risk hopping onto a motorbike taxi in Vietnam, than meeting a scammer in daylight, with nearby police presence, under camera surveillance, in a busy area, in Singapore.

That said, I wanted to hear of a precedent before I took it any further. Nobody seems to have information on this kind of scam, maybe it's not one (highly unlikely). Anyway at least this serves as a record that it would appear there is a scam out there where you get to view the property, just watch out for the fairly obvious unusual signs (property not lived in, all flatmates conveniently absent).
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Dorothy
Baiting Guru


Joined: 09 Jul 2008
Posts: 3114
Location: somewhere over the rainbow


PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:19 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

The problem is, there's just not enough info to say what is going on here.

As far as scams where you actually see the apartment, they most certainly exist. There are plenty of ways it can happen. When it comes to rentals, all of these have happened more than once over the years:

-Illegal sublet: (person showing it is actually supposed to be the tenant, rents to you for a higher price than she is paying). This can easily be done with multiple properties.
-Former tenant who kept keys, shows apartment and collects money when nobody home
-Employee/former employee of an agent/locksmith/security company, etc. who would have key access
-family member of real owner (e.g. mom/dad own building; kid takes keys and makes a few bucks pretending to own it).

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scammersouleater
Not quite a Newb


Joined: 28 Aug 2011
Posts: 37


PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:49 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I would love to check it for you but i'm new at this and operating from home. I'm not sure how to hide my IP address or anything else i should hide to prevent my location from being given away. Especially as my wife has asked me NOT to scambait. I'm using hotmail.
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Jeannette
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Joined: 21 Oct 2006
Posts: 2158
Location: Stalking Nick Riewoldt


PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:03 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

If your wife is concerned for your safety, that is something to appreciate and respect. Smile

There are ways to bait anonymously: Use Gmail/Googlemail to hide your IP = location. Use fake details to register the account. Make up a fake address.

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scammersouleater
Not quite a Newb


Joined: 28 Aug 2011
Posts: 37


PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:05 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Already have done with hotmail, this account i'm using is my scambait account and the address is a shopping mall! Also, when i hit the IP tracker thing at the bottom, it said that it was in burton on trent. I'm not sure if that was my IP or if it just says that before you check the IP. Gonna check the site as my account will be in my scam email box and its not technically scambaiting.
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scammersouleater
Not quite a Newb


Joined: 28 Aug 2011
Posts: 37


PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Ok, sent an email asking for a viewing and also asked for a viewing, also asked when can i move in if i like it. Will post reply when/if i get one.
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scammersouleater
Not quite a Newb


Joined: 28 Aug 2011
Posts: 37


PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:38 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Also changed to gmail. Whilst the IP location given was MILES away, why take risks?
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scammersouleater
Not quite a Newb


Joined: 28 Aug 2011
Posts: 37


PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:07 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Got a reply, this was the email i sent


I'm looking for somewhere to stay and found your ad and i'm interested. Can i arrange a viewing and if i like it, when can i move in?

http://classifieds.singaporeexpats.com/showproduct.php?product=189993

The reply


It is available immediately. Viewing possible in the evenings after 7.30 on work days. Could you share a bit about yourself?

Thanks and regards
Alethea Yap.

I'll post a reply but i suspect that it'll still be difficult to prove if this is scam . I'll keep you posted.
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scammersouleater
Not quite a Newb


Joined: 28 Aug 2011
Posts: 37


PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:21 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Ah, i failed to get this sorted before the week window was up so i've withdrawn myself from this process. Sorry but i'll not be able to help you. You have her name now at least. I wish you luck but i suggest you sever all contact if you think this is a scam.
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