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Recently, I assisted a person in trying to recover money back after being misled via an advertisement on the internet. The person I helped saw an ad on the web for rental property. The ad looked tempting, in fact, a little too tempting. The ad was renting an 8 bedroom 5 bathroom house for $1,200 per month. Too good to pass up. The renter sent an email showing interest in the property. The scammer emailed back that they were a “Christian Family" who were out of state and won’t be back for some time; so they wanted to do the good Christian thing and help out someone by renting out the home. Interestingly, the scammer never owned the home to begin with. What the scammer did was find a property that was for rent, tracked down who owned the home, created a fake email account using the true owner’s name and offered to rent the house. The scammer emailed a rental application to the renter, who filled it out and emailed it back.
The scammer emails back they were excited to rent the house and glad that they could help out by renting it to the unsuspecting renter. Next step was when the scammer said to wire the security deposit through Western Union to a name and address. The scammer, in that email, mentioned that the keys would arrive overnight, but just in case the keys do not arrive, the scammer suggested hiring a locksmith who would go out to the house and remove the locks from the house.
The renter, unsuspecting, wired the money and several days letter the keys never arrived. The renter realized they were taken advantage of but did not know what to do. What I did, to try to help, was investigate the scam myself. I created an email account and let the scammer know I too was interested in the house. The scammer emailed me back the rental agreement, and how and where to send the security deposit. With that information, I contacted the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center. I provided IC3 with as much information as possible (scammer’s email address, name used in the emails and address where money was to be wired). IC3 is investigating the matter. Next, I emailed the ISP who had assigned the email account to the scammer. That too is being investigated. Next, I contacted Western Union in the city where the money was being wired to but they were not helpful. According to the person on the phone, all Western Union does is transfer the funds; they do not look into fraud complaints. Last, I went to the police department in the city where the scammer said to wire the money to. The police department’s website linked me back to IC3.
So, to sum it up. First, if a deal looks to good, it probably is too good to be true. So, don’t rush to wire money to someone you never met or ever will. But, if you do, then gather all the information about the scammer that you can (email address, names, address, etc.), and go to www.ic3.gov and report the crime with all the information you have. IC3 will provide you a reference number which you can use for updated information. If necessary, contact the website that provided the email address and let them know about the scam. Finally, contact the police department in the city where the scammer said to wire money to, assuming you have that address. The police department will either have their own internet fraud department or they will refer you to IC3, which they did for my investigation. Doing this won’t guarantee you will get your money back but it is better than doing nothing about it.