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A rental property scam is being operated on the Craigslist website: the online financial scam requests money order payment to be made by wire transfer via Western Union, to be received prior to move-in, for rental scam of a home at the Los Angeles county property address 17330 Terra Firma Court (Ct), Granada Hills, California (CA), 91344. The scam artist asks for money up front and completed by wire transfer, before the supposed renter will be provided keys to the house.
The fake, rental property scam listing on Craigslist (Los Angeles, Westside-Southbay) with current ID 2157375482, shows the exact property address of 17330 Terra Firma Ct, Granada Hills, CA, 91344 as available at $800 per month while a separate property management company shows the property listing available for $1995 per month rent. The rental property scams focus on offering a very low rent, to encourage people to make contact by email.
This is a newer, now common scam that involves rental properties. The FBI is making efforts to crack down on scam artists, most of whom are known to the FBI to actually be Nigerian criminals who are operating rental property scams. Though the scam for this property address happens to be located in California, this online financial scam is widespread throughout the entire United States and virtually identical rental scams have recently hit areas including Dallas, Texas and people have even claimed that they've seen property they actually own being offered as vacant home listings available for rent.
Because of the ease and anonymity of being able to post virtually anything on the Craigslist website, scammers take advantage of that opportunity by copying photographs of a real rental property, use the real rental property address, and make the rental price per month lower than the norm. After communication with a potential renter, variations of the Nigerian scams include requiring the potential renter to fill out a Lease Agreement and to wire transfer money -- via a service like Western Union -- before providing house access and keys.
This Granada Hills, California, current property scam is being offered on the Craigslist website for approximately $800 per month. The online scam requests a total of approximately $1300 ($800 for the first month and $500 security deposit) to be wired to a European (UK) address via Western Union. The current false/assumed name being used by the Craigslist scammer is Arnold L. Fertig, also being used as the recipient name for the wire transfer recipient. This scammer claims to live in the United Kingdom (UK) and states the reason for offering such low rent on this rental property is because he and his wife are seeking a trustworthy renter whom will treat the property as their own, and take good care of the home.
Because local police departments, including Devonshire Police Department, do not handle or have jurisdiction over internet scams, this type of financial scam runs rampant. Internet fraud is only handled by the FBI, which allows scammers to operate fairly freely. Do not send money in any form to these scammers. Information on rental property financial scams may be found online at the FBI website: "Consumer Alert: Online Rental Ads Could Be Phony." The FBI has specifically listed warnings to renters and consumers, that the Craigslist website is known to have the Nigerian scam artists operating online.
While this particular Craigslist rental scam is occurring in the state of California, nearly identical financial scams have been hitting major parts of the United States. In the recent, Dallas, Texas, Nigerian rental property scams on the Craigslist website, the rental applicant had wired money stolen by the scammers. The applying renter had already wired money overseas, via Western Union, to the Craigslist user before finding out she'd been scammed. In that Craigslist scam for the Dallas area, the scammer had been using the name of "Brian" and claimed to be in Lagos, Nigeria, for an international Christian follower's crusade. The common factor of the Nigerian rental property scams includes building trust with the rental applicant, and insinuating a religious affiliation in order to build that trust. The Texas real estate scam includes reference to a Christian mission, while California rental scams include an email sign-off reading "God Bless".
Here's how the scam works in terms of communication: the scammers send approximately three (3) emails, each scam email subsequently asking for more information than the previous, finally requesting very personal information. If personal information is provided to the scammers, doing so also opens the gates for Identity Theft. As of January 2011, email communication is being sent via the assumed name of Arnold L. Fertig with email communication coming from the AT&T email address of email@example.com. Be aware that false or assumed names currently used, as well as email addresses used, may be changed consistently or at any time.
The Lease Agreement, attached within the rental property scam email, instructs applicants to "drive by the house immediately", which solidifies any doubts because the property is truly available for rent and includes signs for the real rental property management company. The scammer also requests complete and personal information with statemens such as "Your full address is needed because that is where i will send the keys and documents of the House." The financial scam tells rental applicants that after money is sent via Western Union, the renter will then receive keys and the following: "The package containing the keys and documents will be delivered to your address (10957 Petit Ave Granada hills CA 91344) after your deposit is confirmed here. Here are the contents of the document. 1) Entrance and the rooms Keys, 2)Paper/Permanent house form, 3)The house documents file."
Fox News has reported on the Nigeria Rental Property Scam and YouTube video of that report can be found here, and explains how rental scams work.
The FBI states that rental property scams are most often operated by Nigerian criminals and have become prevalent because of the economy, which has resulted in more people currently renting homes than buying houses. Federal Bureau of Investigation encourages consumers whom have been scammed to contact the FBI agency online and issues the following FBI advice:
How to avoid being victimized by rental property scams (issued by the FBI):
*Only deal with landlords or renters who are local;
*Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service;
*Beware of e-mail correspondence from the “landlord” that’s written in poor or broken English;
*Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower;
*Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
For consumers whom have been victimized by rental property crimes or online fraud, the FBI has a specific division where consumers can report internet crimes and specifically crimes involving rental scams. Contact the FBI IC3 division to file a rental property scam complaint.
Below are exact emails received for this rental property scam. Note the multiple typos and mis-spellings contained in these emails.
SCAM EMAIL #1: (Subject Line) "Lease Agreement Attached"
I have attached a copy of the lease agreement for you to sign and return back to me at your own convenient time,also let me know if you are ready to secure the house now for your move in immediately so i could mail the keys through UPS courier company to your address at (10957 Petit Ave Granada hills CA 91344)
BELOW IS MY WESTERN UNION PAYMENT INFORMATION TO ENABLE YOU SEND THE FIRST MONTH RENT AND SECURITY DEPOSIT TO SECURE THE HOUSE FOR YOUR MOVE IN ASAP:
Receiver Name: Arnold L Fertig
Address: 47 Sidcup Rd ,London SE12 8BL, United Kingdom
Text Question: God Is
Text Answer: Good
Use the above information go to any western union outlet and make the payment email me the confirmation number as soon as you complete payment.
NOTE: PRINT OUT THE LEASE AGREEMENT,SIGN AND SEND BACK TO ME ATTACHED,
Thanks and God bless
Arnold L Fertig"
SCAM EMAIL #2:
Arnold L Fertig <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Hello, Thanks for the email. Yes, the House is still available and will only be given out to the right person that will take very good care of the place and the facilities. Well i must let you know that the house has a lot of facilities like laundry facilities,air condition,internet and telephone access and car garage and other necessary facilities.I have really decided to give out the house as a result of my transfer to London UK,in my place of work. Rent per month is---------------$800Security Deposit----------------$500Total to move in is-------------$1300
RENT APPLICATION FORM
1)Your Full Name________________________ 2)Current Address_____________________________ 3)Phone Number (________) 4)State________________ 5)City__________________ 6) Zip______________ 7)Are you married______________________ 8)How many people will be living in the house__________ 9)Do you have a pet______________ 10)Do you have a car______________________ 11)Occupation______________ 12)How many people will be living in the house___________ 13)Email Address:_________________ 14)How long lease are you looking for______________ 15)How soon do you intend moving in and are you ready to secure the house for your move in ________________ I need to inform you as well that money is not the major reason why I am renting it out but want someone who can take care of it as if he/she owns it ,so let me know as soon as possible if you can take good care of it, so that we can discuss the rent further. 17330 Firma Ct Granada Hills CA 91344Bedroom: 2
Bathroom: 1.5 Sq. footage: 1000$800
Utilities Included in the rent are water ,Gas and electricityPets allowed are DOGS and CATSDrive by the house immediately.
Thanks and God bless you amen.Arnold L Fertig"
SCAM EMAIL #3:
Glad to hear from you,i got your application form filled and everything is okay by me.
Myself and my wife are very exited and willing to let you move in our house as soon as possible and we have concluded in accepting payment for the first month payment which is $800 including Utilities inside and a security deposit of $500 total of $1300 to move in as soon as you are ready.
The package containing the keys and documents will be delivered to your address (10957 Petit Ave Granada hills CA 91344) after your deposit is confirmed here.
Here are the contents of the document.
1) Entrance and the rooms Keys
2)Paper/Permanent house form
3)The house documents file.
Once again, we are giving you this on trust and do not disappoint us.
So I am with your information's here with me and i will like to know whether you are ready for the payment of this month Rent so that the keys and the document could be shipped to you as soon as possible so that you can possible occupy the house know.Your full address is needed because that is where i will send the keys and documents of the House.
Call me # +44 70457 53199
Thanks and God bless you,
Arnold L. Fertig"