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New Craigslist Apartment Scam

[UPDATED BELOW on 5/21/17]
At the end of October a young lady sent us a screenshot of an apartment that had just come on the market in Winooski, Vermont on Craigslist. She was interested, but suspicious. We asked her why and she pointed out that, unlike all other apartment listings she saw, this listing had only one photograph, no telephone number and the price seemed too good to be true for a 3 bedroom apartment. But what if it was legit? She didn’t want to miss out so she reached out to the listed email: Colx Ltd <colx.ltd@aol.com> representing “Oriz and Rosio Ruiz.”

winooski-apt-on-craigslist

This young lady informed us that after two emails from Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz she knew for certain this was a scam.   Now it was time for us to step in. We created a fictitious email account of a University of Vermont senior we named “Cory Meadows” and contacted Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz to inquire about the apartment, even though it had already been flagged as suspicious on Craigslist and taken down.

 

Hi, I'm interested in your 3 bedroom apartment in Winooski. Is it still available? If so, when is the start date? Thanks, Cory

 

From Colx Ltd <colx.ltd@aol.com>
Date: Sun, Oct 30, 2016 at 10:40 PM

Subject: Re: 3 beds 1.5 baths 1,320 sqft

Thanks for the inquiry regarding 3BR / 1.5Ba 1,320 sqft property at 159 E Spring St, Winooski, VT 05404. I and my wife own the wonderful home you are making inquiry about and I also want you to know that it was due to my work transfer to CALIFORNIA that made me and my wife to leave the house with an intention of giving it out for rent. We looking for a responsible person that can take very good care of our property. We want the property to be kept clean at all time as it is our hard-earned property. We want you to understand that the property used to be our home and means a lot to me and my family and the care is important. Pets are allowed as long as they are not destructive. All appliances are included. We won't be available to do a walk through with you due to our absence but getting you access to move in won't be a problem as soon as we decide to rent to you. We can assure you that our home is well maintained, clean, bug-free, in perfect condition to move in and ready for immediate move in. Make sure you drive-by the neighborhood and look at the house to see how lovely it looks, well maintenance. You will like it. We have pictures. The rent is $800 and security deposit is $600 and total move-in cost will be $1,400. If you are honestly interested in renting from us and will absolutely maintain my property and treating it like you own it, as I hope I can put my trust and confidence in you because I will come to check on my property yearly, you will be filling out the Rental Questionnaire Form that I will be having for you in my next email and email back to me as soon as possible. I will review it for screening. We need to make sure we are renting to someone who can meet up with our requirements. I believe you understand. I would also love to have few discussion with you over the phone but I'm quite busy now, I will find time for you talk to you as we move forward. You can leave me a text anytime (530) 487-4467 or email me, I will be happy to respond. The house vital informative documents and the entire keys of the property are with me. Get back to me so that I can forward you the Rental Questionnaire Form. I look forward to knowing your more. Thank you.

Regards,

Oriz & Rosio Ruiz

redflag


Red flag #1
: Awkward English that is very similar to the English of African 419 Scammers rather than Hispanic people for whom English may be a second language. This continues across in all communication.

 

Red flag #2: We are told that the only acceptable forms of contact are text and email. No phone call permitted.

 

Cory’s replies: Yes, I am interested!  Please send me the questionnaire.
Also, I would like to talk to you about some details about the apartment.  When is the best time to call you? Thanks!

From: Colx Ltd <colx.ltd@aol.com>
Date: Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 5:17 AM
Subject: Rent Questionnaire Form
Hello, Its good to read from you. You can fill out the Rent Questionnaire Form below and email back to me as soon as possible. We will look through your information before we decide. If accepted, we will make arrangements for you as soon as possible.

=======================
RENT QUESTIONNAIRE FORM
=======================

INFORMATION ABOUT APPLICANT
Full Name:
Current Address:
Date of birth:
Marital Status:
Occupation:
Yearly Income:
Home/Cell Phone Number:
Employer Name and Contact Number:
Current Landlord Name and Contact Number:
Reason for Relocation:
Any Criminal Record:
Numbers of Cars:
Pet Type:
Anticipated Move-in Date:
How many people will be residing on the property:
Before we can take the property off market for you, how much can you put down today to secure the property:

================
OTHER APPLICANTS
================
Full Name:
Date of birth:

==========
REFERENCES
==========
Full Name:
Contact:

I _________________ CERTIFY that answers given herein are true and complete to the best of my knowledge. I authorize investigation of all statements contained in this application for tenant screening as it may be necessary in arriving at a tenant decision. I understand that the landlord may terminate any rental agreement entered into for any misrepresentation made above.

Please get back to me today with a reply,
Best Regards,
Oriz & Rosio Ruiz

Red flag #3: Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz completely ignore Cory’s request to speak over the phone.

 We reply as Cory using completely fictitious information on the Rent Form with the exception of the current landlord. We found a property management company in Burlington, VT and listed it as our current Landlord and used their name and phone numbers as a reference. A call to them would easily have told the Ruiz couple that Cory Meadows is not one of their tenants.

 

From Cory:
Date: Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 6:53 AM
Subject: Re: RENT QUESTIONNAIRE FORM
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz,
Thank you!! We're very excited to rent your apartment. We want to ask you some questions about it, especially the kitchen because we love to cook! Can we call you today or tomorrow??
What's the next step?
Best, Cory

=======================
RENT QUESTIONNAIRE FORM
=======================

INFORMATION ABOUT APPLICANT
Full Name: Cory Meadows
Current Address: 57 Bradley Street
Date of birth: April 7, 1993
Marital Status: single
Occupation: student
Yearly Income: 8,000 - 10,000 (depends on summer work)
Home/Cell Phone Number: [Number removed]
Employer Name and Contact Number: Not employed now; am a student
Current Landlord Name and Contact Number: [Name removed] Properties Management Co. [Number removed]
Reason for Relocation: Need a larger space
Any Criminal Record: No
Numbers of Cars: 1
Pet Type: none
Anticipated Move-in Date: as soon as possible
How many people will be residing on the property: 3
Before we can take the property off market for you,
how much can you put down today to secure the property: $1200

================
OTHER APPLICANTS
================

Full Name: Alison Flayden
Date of birth: December 1, 1993
Full Name: Marie Ann Soucey
Date of birth: June 11, 1994

==========
REFERENCES
==========

Full Name: [Name removed]
Contact: [Number removed]

I Cory Meadows CERTIFY that answers given herein are true and complete to the best of my knowledge. I authorize investigation of all statements contained in this application for tenant screening as it may be necessary in arriving at a tenant decision. I understand that the landlord may terminate any rental agreement entered into for any misrepresentation made above.

 

After receiving Cory’s Rent Form, the scammer begins a text conversation with Cory using the number we provided…

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/1/16 at 9:34 pm:

Hello Cory, I want to touch base with you about the property. I got your rent questionnaire form and I reviewed your information with my wife. We are interested in moving forward with you and we just have some couple of questions for you. We want to know if we decide to rent our home to you, will you be capable to care for it like you own it? How long do you wish to live in our home? Do you pay your rent in time? Is it possible you get pets later? Text me the questions you have about the kitchen but I can assure

you that its perfect. All appliances are included. Thank you

 

Red flag #4: Though subtle, we notice that African 419 Scammers often try to appeal to a person’s religion (“Christian values”), or willingness/ability to do what is “right” or be a good person. This scammer asks “We want to know if we decide to rent our home to you, will you be capable to care for it like you own it?”

 

Cory: Yes! Yes, we are good tenants. I'm sure you heard that from our reference Mrs [NAME REMOVED]! We want to rent it for at least a year. When can I meet you at the apartment to see it? Is the stove gas or electric Thank You!!

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/1/16 at 10:02 pm:
Everything sounds really good to us. You have been accepted as our new tenant. I've got some other interested families but we hope you will make a great tenant for us. Your prompt attitude and manner of approach makes our decision making easy. I hope we won't be disappointed and I want you to understand that this property used to be a home to me and my family and the care is extremely important. The stove is electric. I will touch base with you with the necessary paperwork to solidify the process and how I will be mailing the keys to your current address. Thank you

 

Red flag #5: The Scammer completely ignored Cory’s request to meet at the apartment.

 

Cory: Thank you! You just made my day!! Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/2/16 at 8:07 am:
Good Morning Cory, I want you to quickly get to a moneygram outlet around you to put down the payment of the security deposit to secure the property for yourself so that I can issue the rental receipt together with the paperwork, take the property off market and put out the message to decline other applicants. How soon can you quickly get that done?

 

Cory: Good morning I have classes for most of the day and meeting my advisor later. Can I meet you at the apartment later today or tonite and give you a check?

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/2/16 at 8:19 am:
I am making arrangement to mail the keys to your current address, that why I want to manage my time to get the documentation over with because I'm also working

 

Red flag #6: Again, the Scammer ignored Cory’s request to meet.

 

Cory: How should I get you the deposit? What info do I need? I can try today after 2 pm

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/2/16 at 8:31 am:
Get to the Walmart to put down the payment via Walmart to Walmart to the following Name and Address: Beatrice Meyers, Address: 1508 E Grangeville, Hanford CA 93230. My attorney will be handling it. Just get back to with with the reference number on the receipt and the picture of receipt for filing.

 

HUGE Red flag #7: Never, ever wire money to a store or via Western Union because it is the same as flushing those dollars down the toilet. There’s no way to get them back, cancel, or take any legal path to recoup your loss.  According to a 2014 article posted on Slate.com "To make a transfer, customers will walk into a store, go to the designated “money center” or customer service desk, and fill out a form with the transfer amount, recipient’s name, and state the funds are heading to. Cash and debit cards will both be accepted for payment. Walmart-2-Walmart will then transfer the money and the person on the other end can pick the cash up at any store in the specified state within a few minutes, Walmart spokeswoman Sarah McKinney said."

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/2/16 at 8:47 am:
Do you understand?

 

Cory: yes. in class now. can't text

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/2/16 at 8:52 am:
Ok just let me know when you have the reference number.

 

SMS Message from (530) 487-4467 on 11/2/16 at 4:38 pm:
Hi Cory, do you have the reference number yet? I need to manage my time to get the process in place

 

Cory: I'm sorry Mr. Ruiz. I was delayed. Here is the number [A fake number was provided; we hoped it would at least waste the scammer’s time sending “Beatrice” to the Walmart.]

 

A sad addendum to this story…
At 8:31 am EST we had a name and address in California that the scammer planned to use for picking up his fraudulent earnings. Doug called the FBI to inform them of the conversation and that a criminal planned to pick up the wire transfer as soon as we told him the transfer had gone through. Sadly, the FBI agent’s response…. “File a complaint online at the IC3.gov site” and he gave us this address: https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

This is not the first time this has happened to us. Politely, Doug informed the FBI agent that he had used the IC3.gov site before and found it to be unhelpful and even difficult to use. In fact, we have never, ever received any response by reporting a crime to that government web site. And we can’t imagine having our timely information ever being used in time to catch a thief. There is so much about the way the United States handles Internet crime that is completely broken, disfunctional or both. “Mr. Ruiz” lived to scam another day…

UPDATE: March 24, 2017...
Perhaps "Mr. Ruiz" is back, trying to scam Vermonters disguised this time as a man named Ambrose!  We heard from the same young lady who sent us the information that began this story.  She found the following house in Shelburne, Vt. with a rent price WELL BELOW the going market on Craigslist.  Of course she was interested but was suspicious.

She contacted the owner using the email list provided in the ad and got the following reply.  We have bolded/italicized words and phrases that should raise your suspicions that this is a possible scam...
From: Gyu bie <dclnde@outlook.com>
Date: Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: Beautifully kept 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom historic home in a great location
To: [EMAIL REMOVED]

Hello,
Good day and hope you are having a wonderful morning?

My name is Ambrose C Umeh, I am a Surgeon Doctor who has just been transferred (Baylor Scott & White Surgical Hospital at Sherman here in Texas). This is my first time of posting my house on Craigslist for rent, My house is available for a long period of time.

Please i need a good and God fearing family that can take proper care of my beautiful house like you own it. My house have a 3 Bedroom 2 Bathroom, for rent in (5921 Shelburne Rd),all utilities are included in the rent. You can swing by to see it from outside or you can take a peek from the window to see how it looks like in the inside because im currently out of the area for now so i wont be able to show you inside of the house but i can make pictures available for you to give you full insight of how it looks in the inside. You should fill out the rental application form below so that we can proceed with discussing move in logistics.

The rent is $1340 monthly
Security deposit is $1340 and refundable at the end of lease.
LEASE APPLICATION FORM

FULL CONTACT:
NAME :
OCCUPATION :
RESIDENTIAL HOME ADDRESS :
YOUR CELLPHONE NUMBER:
YOUR HOME PHONE NUMBER:
YOUR WORKPLACE NUMBER:
WHAT TIME IS THE BEST TIME TO REACH YOU:
AGE & MARITAL STATUS:
OWN A PET:
OWN A CAR:
HOW MANY PEOPLE SHALL RESIDE IN THE PREMISES:
ANTICIPATED MOVE IN DATE:
DO YOU AGREE TO PAY THE FIRST MONTH RENT & SECURITY DEPOSIT BEFORE RECEIVING THE KEYS:
WHEN DO YOU INTEND PAYING THE DEPOSIT:
HOW MANY MONTHS CAN YOU PAY UPFRONT?
REFERENCE:
============================== =======
Application Comment
============================== =======

Please make sure this questions are fill correctly because the best way you answer with your comment will impress me the more to accept your applications.

I hope to hear from you soonest....

Regards
Ambrose C. Umeh & Family.

The suspicious phrases above, especially that Mr. Umeh cannot show you the apartment because he is away, should immediately put up red flags.  You should get on Google and check out the address.  When we searched Google we saw links on Zillow, Trulia and with the real listing agent that this home is for rent for $2,190 through an agency called Jack Associates.  This is a big, fat delete!

We contacted "Ambrose" pretending to be a carpenter named Keith and told him we were very interested to see the house on the inside.  He sent us the same email above and we replied that we were very interested.  Surprisingly, he asked to talk to us by phone!  Listen to our conversation...  It is hard to understand his accent (we suspect he is on a line from Africa) and it was faint with lots of pauses. (Delays in a very long distance call?) We amplified the sound and removed most of the long pauses.)  Enjoy!

Ambrose wanted us to wire the $275 moneygram to someone named Angie Nunez of Paramount, California 90728 but moments later he corrected that and said to send the money to Angelita Nuñez of Fresno, California 93731.  He called her his "fed ex agent."  Ambrose contacted us through phone number 415-413-4087

 

UPDATE 4/20/17:

A TDS Reader sent us an email she received from a Mr. Donald Grant, who claimed to have an apartment to rent in Winooski, Vermont.  Phony Winooski apartments have been listed before!  Can you read the tell-tale signs in "Donald's" email?

  1. Phrases like "My family and I just moved back to... (some other state)
  2. Saying "Initial plan was to sell the house.... but decided to rent it to a responsible tenant"
  3. The "owner" creates an excuse why he cannot show it and instead says things like "I would like you to drive-by the house to view the exterior and neighborhood of the house."
  4. Sometimes the posted ad on Craigslist has only 1 or no photos. See below.

 

From: Divine Favour <divinefavour218@outlook.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 1:29 PM
Subject: Re: Wonderful tree-lined cul-de-sac community near public park and recreation

Hello,
Thank you very much for inquiring about my house. The house is available and ready for move in, the first month rent is $1,200 and refundable security is $800 and total move-in cost is $2,000. Pets are allowed if well-behaved and non destructive. My family and I just moved back to Florida (Our Native State) to take over the family business since my dad passed away. My initial plan was to sell the house but I find it difficult to let go this adorable home, hence I decided to rent it out to a responsible tenant that will to take good care of it in our absence. I am only saying this in-case you find the house listed for sale somewhere else, such ad is no longer valid.  I would like you to drive-by the house to view the exterior and neighborhood of the house. Utilities such as Water, Sewer and Trash have all been included in the monthly rent. You can reach me on (321)239-1728. (text msgs preferably) and I check my email regularly.

Here is the address: 35 Railroad Ln,
Winooski, VT 05404
3 beds 2 baths 1,600 sqft

Get back to me asap so I can forward you the rental questionnaire.
Thanks and God bless.

Donald E Grant.
(321)239-1728

UPDATE 5/21/17:
A woman named Kelly shared this email with us about a Chicago Apartment on Craigslist that has already been removed from view.  The email has many telltale signs that it's a scam.  See if you can spot them....

From: hjbdvj@outlook.com
Sent: ‎5/‎21/‎2017 10:52 AM
To: Kelly
Subject: Re: Quiet waterfront subdivision, nice and clean 3 bedroom 1 bathroom

Hello,

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend?

Thank you for showing interest in renting my lovely house, my name is Ambrose C. Umeh, i am a travel Doctor that just got transferred to {Missouri} for to carry out a surgery,my house is available for move in as from today.I am looking for renting it for at least 2-3 years so you can stay as long as you like in my lovely house.

I am currently out of the area for now and won't be available for a showing, but i can make pictures of the outside and inside available for you so as to give you full insight of how the place look and i am 100% assured that you will like what you see when you get to the place, you ca text me on {415} 754-8452.

The monthly rent is {$730} and a refundable security deposit of {$730} so total move in cost of {$1460}, The monthly rent cover all utilities so you will not be paying for anything for the period you will be living in my house.

The address is {25650 W Florence Ave, Antioch, IL 60002} In-case you will like to drive by to see the house you are free anytime, My house has a 4 bedroom and 3 bathrooms.

Do get back to me so that i can give you more info's with pictures and rental application form so that we can proceed with the rental process.

Looking forward to your email.

Thanks
Ambrose

Sent from Outlook

Sent from Outlook
From: Kelly
Sent: Sunday, May 21, 2017 2:07:02 AM
To: hjbdvj@outlook.com
Subject: Quiet waterfront subdivision, nice and clean 3 bedroom 1 bathroom

Hi, I just want to verify the monthly rental amount of $730 as listed on Craigslist.

Thank you

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