Friday, January 05, 2007

To Catch a Scammer: Roommate Scam - Part II

Placed an ad for a roommate on Dec-09 in various media, including free newspapers, some rental websites, at my school (UCCS) and at a couple of area churches where I attend. The following is an actual email from a potential roommate who turned out to be a scammer, responding to my confirmation that I had a room to rent. (read about the scam here):

Date: Dec-19, 2006

Hi [Me],

Thanks so much for responding to my mail.Please i'll like to have the breakdown details,the total move in cost of the room as well as the picture of the house as i'll not be able to check out the place until my arrival,so that i can make arrangement for payment prior to my arrival since i'll be coming down from West Africa as soon as i'm able to secure a comfortable room.I'll also like to know abit about yourself.I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Names have been omitted for confidentiality. The first problem with this email is that the respondent is a girl, when my ad stated that I was seeking a male roommate. So unless they didn't see that item, there's nothing we should be discussing at this point.

Secondly, I received about 8 emails that sounded just about the same as the one above, so in my mind, I had already flagged what's going on as suspicious. [See another such posting here]. I decided I'd find out more.
In any case, I responded with the breakdown (total costs and how we splits them amongst roommates). I also described the apartment and what amenities it has, stated what I do for work, what I'm going to school for, and what else I like to do. I did not send any pictures.
In the response, I asked what (s)he is doing in West Africa and what country she is in. Here's the response I got back:

Date: Dec-19, 2006
Hi [Me],

Thanks so much for the mail.I really do appreciate the breakdown details of the house.I'll be so glad if you can reserve the room for me and remove the advert from
[omitted] as i'll love to rent the place. And please tell me if i can ever consider the room as mine.I'm Australian, a quiet and easy going person to live with. I'm 5"7' straight. I dont drink and smoke but i'm cool living with people that do.I always love to go on date but seldomly party.I swim for fun and sometimes play tennis. My families lives in Australia,i am currently working on contract for my company [omitted] here in West Africa.I had professional certification in CCNA(cisco certified network association)also a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems, plus another in Business Administration.I hope to end my current assignment by the 28th of Dec 2006 and will love to come down as soon as possible to explore my talent and hope to have a more profitable job. I do not have a pic presently on my system but will try to attach one to my next mail. I had like to make the payment for the first month ahead of my arrival, and then i will make subsequent payment thereafter as i plan to stay for more than Eight months. So i'll send my client to see you,you will get the payment prior to my arriving date.
The things i will be moving in are as follow;
my Mercedes (C-class 2004 model) metalic green.
suite case containing my books
my 26' DELL PLASMA TV and DVD Home theatre
my clothes in three luggages
my desk top computer (COMPAQ) and pieces of
Hope to hear from you soon

Mind you this is only the second email from this person, and if you are paying attention, you can already tell there are problems with this picture:
  1. The language use is terrible. While this itself is not a big flag, Australians (especially those that are highly skilled as this person purports to be or have travelled) are proficient at English.
  2. The person is already interested in my place based on the simplistic descriptions I gave them in one email, and she'd like me to reserve the place for her and stop advertising it - she really needs it.
  3. The person offers to pay for the first month. This is overcommitment as far as I can see, but because they might leave within 10 days to come over, I ignore it to allow for hasty planning or urgency on her end.
  4. The company mentioned does not align with her skills. For kicks, I called a couple of companies with the name provided and asked if they had operations in West Africa. None did, but I let this slip because jobs can be that fluid - no biggie - though i did take note.
To clear any misunderstandings, I offer a link to my MySpace profile in response, hoping she'd pick up on the idea that I am male. In fact, I also have the text of my ad right on the profile page, emphasizing that I need a male roommate.
Also in the response, I affirm her profession as admirable (since I happen to have those same interests, I wonder whether the mail is doctored to appeal to me that way ...). Most importantly, I suggest a plan of action: that I shall have cleaners touch up the apartment and then her sponsors can come check it out. If they like it, they can pay a deposit, and the room would be reserved for her. I'm additionally nice in the response that I offer to check for her on any job postings with my company, since she'd be a good fit.

At this point, I'm playing ... I know fully well that this is the well-known roommate scam. I've made up my mind to play along and see where things like this end up (without being scammed).

[To be continued ...]

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