FBI: That Cute Home for Rent Could Be Latest Nigerian Scam

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​So, you know those Nigerian criminals of "We've got a $1 million check waiting from your long lost Nigerian prince uncle" spam e-mail fame? They've come up with a new scam, warns the FBI.

You can't believe your good fortune--you find a rental home in a nice area through a Craigslist classified ad at an unbelievably low rate. The landlord--who had to leave the country and travel to Nigeria--asks that you wire him two months' worth of rent. You arrive at the home on the agreed-upon date, but there's just one small problem--the house is not actually for rent and its owners know nothing about your agreement.

God, I hate it when that happens. Twice! It's apparently the result of "Nigerian criminals located halfway around the world" responding perhaps to the current housing market that has more people renting than buying, says the bureau.

 

The so-called 419 scheme--named after the Nigerian penal code section under which this particular kind of fraud is prosecuted--has ensnared victims in South Carolina, Rhode Island, Illinois, Colorado and right here in California, reports the FBI. And the perpetrators are apparently using valid rental housing information from online ads to mask their phony transactions. "To sweeten the pot," says the FBI, "the houses are almost always listed with below-market rental rates."

Did somebody say they'd like a side of identity theft with that fraudulent rental? Some "renters" have been asked to fill out applications asking for credit history, Social Security numbers and work history.

The FBI offers tips on how to avoid the scam and advises victims to report the crimes to its Internet Crime Complaint Center .

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