2 scam alerts: One by phone, one online ‘rental ad’

Two warnings from the WSB inbox tonight: First, an odd telephone call that turns out to be a scam attempt that’s been going around a while; second, a Craigslist post for a West Seattle rental that yielded a bizarre reply. Read on for details on both:

First, the phone scam, whose target didn’t want her name used:

I just had a phone call that I finally figured out was a new sort of computer scam. I am concerned that another person might fall for it, so I’d like to tell you my experience as a warning to others:

When the phone rang, there was an incomplete caller ID. I answered because I thought this was strange. There was no one on the line: I heard a phone ring three times, and a man’s voice came on asking for my husband. I said the usual, “My husband is not available. I am his wife. May I help you?” I expected to be given a speech and to respond, “Please take us off your list.”

Instead, the person who sounded as if he were in India told me he works for a computer consulting company, Tech Resolve, which has been contracted by Microsoft to respond to persistent error messages from Windows users. I asked him why I should trust him any more than trust someone who would email me to wire money to a friend who had been mugged in Bali. He laughed, congratulated me on my suspicions, and convinced me to open the RUN window, enter a command, and presented for my view a window with a series of red error messages. He did this again with another command. Then he sent me to a web page on which he wanted me to authorize remote control of my desktop. At that point, I told him my husband was calling me and asked if he could call me back. Instead, he asked to be put on hold. When I returned, he had hung up.

Several things made me suspicious: First, the caller ID and unusual way he answered at the beginning of the call. Second, he asked me to sit down in front of a computer. I asked him which one I should sit in front of and he told me any computer was fine. Third, I looked up Tech Resolve’s web page while talking to him, and it was a commercial page that charges for any sort of help. So, when I put him on hold, I went to Microsoft’s web site on another computer. The security page told me that they never contact Windows users in unsolicited calls. Finally, I called Rob at PC Mobile Help. He assured me it’s a scam and even offered to talk to the fellow on the phone. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen because I was hung up on. I did find more information on this scam online where it seems to have been more popular in the UK and is a relatively recent event in the US. (The fact that Rob was sincerely concerned about my security was even more evidence to me of what a nasty scam this is.)

I am certainly happy to have resisted allowing a stranger access to all the private information stored on my computer. Had I done so, it would have been disastrous. I am really concerned about others who might be taken in by the story.

Here’s a Microsoft Answers discussion of the aforementioned scam.

Meantime, the other note of warning comes from Alli, who inquired about a West Seattle house listed for rent on Craigslist. It was listed as 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, $800. Here’s the note she received back (we’ve edited out a few specifics):

Thanks for your email and interest in renting my house..I am the owner of the house you are making inquiry of…Actually I resided in the house with my family before and presently we have moved out due to my transfer from my work now in Warsaw,Poland. Presently my house is still available for rent for $800 USD (rent already includes utilities). More so Now, i am currently in Lagos, Nigeria for an international Christian follower’s crusade. I will like to let you know that i initially wanted to sell the house but my wife adviced i rent it out to responsible people.

Please i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent,so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own, It is not the money that is the main problem but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up.I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word.

This is the address of the House ( —- 30th Avenue SW Seattle, WA 98126 ),

It has a dramatic entry foyer with ceramic floor. Extremely spacious rooms throughout with lots of big windows…nice and light! New neutral paint and some newer carpet..Very quiet, low traffic area. Appliances included are washer, dryer, oven,dishwasher, new fridge (7/07)…I believe its absolutely a perfect home for you and your family.Utilities include Water,Trash,Sewer,Gas



FIRST NAME:__________?
MIDDLE NAME:__________?
LAST NAME:__________?
DATE OF BIRTH:_________?
MARITAL STATUS:__________?
KIDS _____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY ________
PRESENT ADDRESS: _____________________
CITY: _______________
ZIP CODE: ____________
KIND OF PETS: _____________?
DO YOU SMOKE ______________ ?
DO YOU DRINK ______________?

Looking forward to hearing from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file incase of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you…Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this….

The house is available for rent at the moment so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to…A Deposit of $500 (which happens to be the security deposit) is required before moving in…Feel free to call me for more information and arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you….my number is ( +233-***-***-*** or +233-***-***-*** ).The house will be available for rent for a period of 4 years so you have a choice of deciding how long you intend staying there…

So, you say, what if that’s somehow legitimate? (Have you ever read spam e-mail?) We crosschecked the 30th SW address given in the note. It is indeed listed for rent … for $1495 … in two legitimate-appearing ads – one of them also on CL!

34 Replies to "2 scam alerts: One by phone, one online 'rental ad'"

  • JanS March 7, 2011 (8:55 pm)

    My daughter encountered something like this a while ago….and she let the real rental agent know about it, I’m pretty sure. You might want to do that. Now, at the mere mention of Nigeria, we should all run the other way. I sometimes wonder if there are any honest persons living in that country any more.

  • WMF March 7, 2011 (8:59 pm)

    Meh… Stupid 419 scammers. Check out 419eater.com

    • WSB March 7, 2011 (9:05 pm)

      Thanks, WMF … But I have to say, ever since I saw a very rational, intelligent friend (although admittedly this was several years back, pre-social-media, even) almost fall for one of these, I never assume “Oh, EVERYONE knows better!” … The $800 rental, BTW, has since been flagged and appears to be gone … but I’m sure, well, 419,000 or so of them spring up to take its place … TR

  • seattlecris March 7, 2011 (9:15 pm)

    That ad has been up off and on again for years. Its so obviously a scam that its a joke but it must work occasionally because they keep it going. I never investigated it further but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were in other cities too.

  • Laura March 7, 2011 (9:27 pm)

    The rental listing looks like one I sent an email on, but the house was on Dakota and the ‘owner’ was now in the UK as she had to relocate her entire family for work. She was trying to do everything herself and not use an agent. That sounded just a tad fishy. I’m not sure if it was a valid rental listing or not, but I wasn’t going to risk sharing my information via anyone overseas.

  • metrognome March 7, 2011 (9:33 pm)

    the first scam was the subject of a Forum thread a week or so ago:


    my rule of thumb: if the caller ID isn’t someone I know, I let it go to voicemail. 99% of the time there is no msg; rarely it is a friend with an unidentified cell phone and they leave a msg.

  • jordan March 7, 2011 (9:41 pm)

    My wife an I encourtered the same scam!! We reported them to online fraud website. I cannot believe they are still using it..

  • Krystal March 7, 2011 (10:06 pm)

    These rental scams are nationwide, generally on vacated short sales listed on the MLS or on foreclosed homes, rarely on typical sales or vacated properties. Flag on CL and move on. And never send someone you don’t know money.

  • Heather March 7, 2011 (10:16 pm)

    The rental house referred to above is actually MY rental house. We have been trying to flag the “scam” ads on craigslist but I can’t seem to catch up with them. Each time I flag one, a new one appears the next day. I have even gone as far as to use a online flyer company that helps to prevent the copying, but it looks like they have gotten around that as well.
    We had this happen two years ago when we were looking for a renter and we actually had to get the Seattle Police Department involved because someone had fallen for the scam and given out their bank account information. Unfortunately, since the scammer changes the email address with each scam, there is really no way to trace it.
    I manage several properties around the greater puget sound area and this is the one that continues to be an issue – it’s almost as if the scammer is targeting this area.
    Needless to say, the home is still for rent (at $1495) and is a great home if anyone is looking. :)

  • Barb Joseph March 7, 2011 (10:17 pm)

    This scam is common on houses for sale too. Someone will list it on CL as for rent when really it is only for sale. There is a history of the scammers taking the listing photos and using them for the fake rental ad on craigslist.

    If you ever see a house for rent on craigslist then drive by and see a for sale sign. Call the number on the for sale sign to find out the status of the house before ever giving the people on cl any of your information.

  • Alli March 7, 2011 (10:19 pm)

    Here’s to just simply hoping that the real owners of the house are notified, and that no sincere West Seattleite would ever fall for this.

    • WSB March 7, 2011 (10:30 pm)

      Heather – Thanks for letting us know you’re aware of this, sorry it keeps happening, and thanks again to Alli for the note (her comment above this one was posted before Heather’s was published). Spam and scam are such scourges. One of our mailboxes has something of a lame filter and every morning when I check e-mail very very early, I get to see what the newest schemes are, because there are about 10 examples sitting there in the inbox. – TR

  • TammiWS March 8, 2011 (2:13 am)

    I recently had a similar email sent to me but it was in response to something of higher value I was selling on CL. The person was overseas (military), was moving home soon, wanted me to hold the item and to prove good faith would send me money (more than I was asking actually-a sure sign of a scam!) to my Paypal account if I provided a bunch of personal information. Given it was Paypal (and not a wire/cashiers check) for a moment it sounded legit but then similar verbiage to the above was used and it was a fraud. Irritating and such a waste of time to get these emails!

  • AL March 8, 2011 (5:34 am)

    JanS (first commenter of this post).

    What a sad way to think “I sometimes wonder if there are any honest persons living in that country any more.”

    I lived and worked in Lagos for 9 months, and I’m here to testify that there are many supurb/outstanding Nigerians, however just like anywhere else in the world, there’s always that 10% who screw it up for the rest of us good folk.

    Imagine if everyone outside our borders thought that all Americans were millionair rap-stars who drive big, blingy SUV’s, use drugs and are money hungry? Or cheating politicinas?

    Condem the individual, not their CLAIMED country of origin please!!

  • Eddie March 8, 2011 (6:20 am)

    You might notice also that the “application” asks several questions that are illegal for landlords to ask: Marital status and Do you have Kids.

    A legal question that could be asked is “How many people will be living here with you?”

  • redblack March 8, 2011 (7:25 am)

    i actually received a 419 – supposedly from the nigerian government – stating that they had money for victims of 419 scams, and humbly asked if i would respectfully send them my name, address, routing number, etc. so they could compensate me for my troubles.
    the missus has had some not-so-funny experiences with lonely, older, wealthier clients falling for these – repeatedly – sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars and wiping out decades’ worth of savings.
    the imperial forces (FBI, treasury, USPS) are interested in stopping this crap:
    interesting note on the origin of the term 419, too:

    The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim actually conspires to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label “419 fraud.”

  • ARBOR HTS. DUDE March 8, 2011 (7:26 am)

    Anytime you see the words U.S. Dollars or abbreviated USD…..RUN!! No one HERE uses the term U.S. Dollars. No one.
    It is just assumed. But scammers a long time ago picked up the term because they are Overseas where the U.S. is added to differentiate between U.S. and Canadian or other dollars.


    NEVER send information “INTO THE BLIND” meaning NEVER EVER send information over the internet unless you Know For Sure WHO is receiving it.

    If it’s too good to be true…….it usually is.

  • lucky chick March 8, 2011 (7:34 am)

    Oddly, whenever my husband and I put a room in one of our houses to rent on CL, we get a slew of people claiming to be humanitarian workers in the UK wanting to secure the room with a deposit right away. They send or offer a photo and always address my husband (who’s very good-looking and well-known in his public profession, and thus very easy to google). Not sure if that’s a coincidence, but why would anyone bother?? I don’t see what’s to gain.
    No need to disparage Nigerians!! These people are usually not really Nigerian (says my friend who is authentically Nigerian)! I quite enjoyed the people when I was there.

  • AJP March 8, 2011 (8:10 am)

    Also you can google any phrase in the email you get back, likely it’s been used before (the email) and will pop up in a google search as being a scam.

  • dhg March 8, 2011 (8:34 am)

    Regarding the phone scam where they claim Microsoft has taken an interest: These companies will use the name of local businesses that have recently gone under in order to sound legit.

    However, the idea that your pc has been flagged is
    HIlARIOUS in the sense that Microsoft has no interest whatsoever in the plight of consumer pc’s.

  • wsguy March 8, 2011 (9:43 am)

    Another heads up I received a call from someone identifying themselves as card member services (my credit card company) they said i was eligible for a new low interest rate on one or more of my cards and wanted my card info. I told them to have a nice day and hung up. When I called my bank they said it was a scam. When I called the number back on my caller id it went to a voicemail message that said “U DUMB $!*%”. Rule of thumb never ever deal with someone that contacts you. Its that simple.

  • furor scribendi March 8, 2011 (9:50 am)

    The first scammer from India called me Friday night – dead giveaway to ill intent is when they ask for computer access or any personal information. Let it be a household rule that such calls are to be directed to the parents, that no personal information (even childrens names or ages) should be given, and no money promised or wired to ANYONE on an incoming call!!!

  • westseattlegrl March 8, 2011 (10:06 am)

    i get the calls about lowering my interest rate all the time.
    “You are approved for a lower interest rate on your credt card”

    me-“which credit card”

    “give the me number and i will check”

    me-“you called ME, why dont you tell me which card i am approved for!”

    then i laugh and hang up.

    also, the calls about extending my car warranty. i ask for which car, and they say any car.

  • WSGuy March 8, 2011 (10:28 am)

    Why block out the number of the 419 scammer? This guy is a criminal and if a reader wants to robocall him it should be his/her prerogative to do so.

  • DP March 8, 2011 (10:35 am)

    Imagine if everyone outside our borders thought that all Americans were millionair rap-stars who drive big, blingy SUV’s

    Hey now! Watch what you be sayin’ ’bout my frenz, brah!

  • W March 8, 2011 (11:28 am)

    I’ve gotten the “card member services” call twice so far. People who prey on elderly, disabled, less-educated, recent immigrants, or other vulnerable populations should be caught and shamed. I also don’t appreciate legitimate companies who take advantage of vulnerable people i.e. offering a “free credit score” for a fee to people who may not know they are entitled to their score for free from the credit reporting agencies. If we cannot protect these people from this, we cannot expect any protection when we are old.

  • george March 8, 2011 (11:31 am)

    Any time you are suspicous, ask the caller if you can record the call. That usually quells them.

  • Jim Penrose March 8, 2011 (11:51 am)

    Depending on what commands he had you run, you may have already opened your PC wide to anyone who comes by.

    Liely he just had you turn on Windows Messenger which allows someone to send pop-up messages that look like official notifications. Usually this is used in networked environments but it is a wide open gateway to get people to do stuff since it looks like it is part of your operating system.

    Never ever run commands you do not understand unless you are certain you trust the person speaking. I can give you a simple command that will trash your operating system faster than you can hit the power switch.

    I suggest (and I’ve been doing this professionally for 30 years) that you consider unhooking your PC from the Internet until you can get someone trustowrthy to check things and make sure you have not been compromised.

    Unless you have some very unusual arrangements, *no* one will ever call you out of the blue and offer to help “fix” your PC.

    I *guarentee* you it sure won’t be Microsoft or the Dept. of Homeland Security (used in similar scams). :)

  • sarelly March 8, 2011 (12:30 pm)

    Another new and different scam: A friend received a real check, drawn on a real bank, from a real company, for about $10,000. It came from a letter telling him he’d won a sweepstakes of some kind in the UK, although the check was from Canada. The letter said he’d won $100K or $150K and needed to claim it. Since he’d never entered any sweepstakes, and nobody goes around mailing people $10,000 checks, the letter was obviously bogus – presumably if someone were to cash it, they’d find themselves owing somebody a lot of money. This is one of the most sophisticated looking scams I’ve seen.

  • LRS March 8, 2011 (12:45 pm)

    I had a similar experience with a rental ad for an apartment in greenlake when I was looking a year ago. The response I got there was someone who claimed they had been transferred to England who wanted me to email them my bank account information! I reported it to craigslist as a fraud but I’m not sure if anything was done about it. Use common sense, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And never email bank account information.. period.

  • Mel B. March 8, 2011 (3:35 pm)

    Every time we post our rental on Craigslist we have been contacted by interested parties who are “out of the country but will be here in a couple months”. After hearing about all the scams we just tell folks that we don’t deal with anyone out of the area. I’m glad I read this – I had no idea they were expanding on their scams.

  • Jim Penrose March 8, 2011 (4:10 pm)

    “wanting to secure the room with a deposit right away.”

    The trick here is twofold: They will send a you a bogus cashier’s check or money order, etc for some amount more than the deal (sometimes a *lot* more) and then tell you their secretary made a goof or they need to pay the movers also or similar and ask you to wire the difference back to them or to some third party. Note that: By wiring money, you pay cash up front and they get cash at their end. No risk for them and no real security check…if they have I.D. that matches the name you were told to wire to, they get their cash.

    You, having money in your account from what you think *must* be a good check since the bank honored it, cheerfully cooperate.

    Meanwhile the “check” wends its way thorugh the system and when it finally bounces, you get left holding the bag and the money you wired is gone forever.

    Banks are required to make funds available almost immediately for cashier’s checks but it the check is disnonored..and it can take months or even a year or more if a foreign bank is involved, you have to pay it back. You may even get a visit from the FBI if the bank thinks you were the originator of the bad paper.

    Even if drawn on a local bank and you go in and cash it and walk out, if it turns out to be counterfeit, you are going to have a very bad week when your checking account gets frozen while a criminal investigation commences.

    If the deal feels funny, it *is* funny and you need to walk away from it.

  • Paul March 8, 2011 (7:06 pm)

    speaking of scams .. how about these gas prices

  • redblack March 9, 2011 (6:06 am)

    jim penrose: all of that is true, and i would add that if the scammers are dumb enough to give up a routing number or phone number to receive money, the FBI would love to have that information as quickly as possible.

Sorry, comment time is over.