House rental scam?
May 15, 2004 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Having just read this, I'm left wondering how to respond to this message from someone wanting to rent my house for the month of April:
Thanks for your acceptance to allow me and my wife use your home for our honey moon with the hope that it will be most memorable.
I am a sailor and presently i am in deep waters but however I will be sending you a cashier's check of $8,400 after which you will deduct the cost of your rental for 4weeks and have the excess amount sent to the agent that will be responsible for my transportation especially since i will be visiting the states for the first time and i earnestly solicit for your cooperation.
please i will want you to provide me with the following information so that payment will be forwarded to you without delay.
1.Your full names to be on the payment.
2.Your direct contact address.
3.Direct telephone number with which you can be reached any time.

posted by alms to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
suspicious - you should string him along with enthusiastic emails and build a mock-up of front of your house, like those fake frontages they have in westerns, with a live web cam feed of his face when he walks throught the front door.
posted by gravelshoes at 5:27 AM on May 15, 2004

Scam alert! Woo woo woo woo! Scam alert!

Maybe it's an identity theft scam. Cashier's checks, also, can be fraudulent - so that could be the scam right there : "sailor" sends check, you cash it and send "sailor" the difference.....

Then you get a letter from your bank informing you that the cashier's check was fraudulent and that you are responsible for repaying the cash,'ve just wired a portion of it to the scammer!

Just don't provide 1) personal info (especially sensitive info like ssn#, bank info, etc.) or do any sort of financial transaction with this character.

Scam alert! Woo woo woo woo! Scam alert! Woo woo woo woo!
posted by troutfishing at 5:46 AM on May 15, 2004

Looks like a scam to me.

For ease of mind you should just reply and say you have no intention to work with cashiers checks.

However if you want to string him along ask him why he can not send a check for the exact amount of money. Also ask if he wouldn't mind receiving some visitors during his stay that will be delivering $12 Million, of which he can keep 20%, if he pays some handling costs for the local bank first.
posted by sebas at 5:53 AM on May 15, 2004

Response by poster: Ah, perhaps I should have been clearer. I have no doubt that this is a scam. The question is whether there is any way I can turn it around and have some fun with this guy.

Unlike p-p-p-powerbook, I can't ship him a fake vacation rental at his expense!
posted by alms at 5:54 AM on May 15, 2004

Hmm. I'd say take sebas' answer, but *gradually* begin to insist on exact payment. It'll drag the whole affair out a little while longer, at no real cost to you, and if your reasoning becomes increasingly bizarre and irrational you can probably get some humor out of it too. the end, when you really put your foot down, you should be explaining that your dog won't let you accept a cashier's check because it goes against his religious beliefs.
posted by aramaic at 7:31 AM on May 15, 2004

alms - I didn't think you were dense, but we all have our blind spots.....

A) The mild approach - 1) Email the scammer describing how excited you are to have a renter. Explain how you have been taken in various times in the past but that you are sure it will all work out this time. Have the scammer send you the cashier's check (make up a name, maybe use a PO box? Maybe it's OK to use your actual address, but if you really piss somebody off you do want to cover your tracks - even though, presumeably, the scammer lives in Nigeria, Thailand or somewhere far away. But you never know.) 2) when you get it, wait a week or two. 3) send the scammer a deeply apologetic email concerning how the cashier's check was eaten by a dog, destroyed in a hailstorm, or ruined by the mucous secretions of the giant banana-slugs which crawl all over your porch at night (whatever). Ask for another cashier's check, and effuse again, amidst more deeply sincere apologies, about how excited you are to have a reliable renter (not like all the other ones). 4) wait a few more weeks. 5) Make up another story and request another cashier's check.

Interweave this approach with all the other methods which will soon appear here, by other metafilter members.

B) Hard core, no-holds barred combat - take on the persona of a 89-year old widow with no immediate family. Exchange lots of emails with the scammer and start insinuating that you want to leave your house to the scammer, in your will.

That might get them to divulge personal info and - if you do it artfully enough, you might even manage to trick them into sending money to you! Talk about how poor you are - so poor that you only have enough money to eat the cheapest grade of dry dog kibbles - and how you can't afford the nitroglycrine tablets for your heart condition any more. So you could die any day.

When you have the scammer really hooked (lots of heartfelt, earnest back and forth about how lonely you are and how you'd hate to have the city take your house - how you'd like to will it to someone so deserving as the scammer) , talk about how you want to have a lawyer draw up a will to deed the scammer your house. Only, you don't have the $ for the fees and are so very, very, very sorry and don't know what to do. Let the scammer suggest giving you the lawyer's fee. It's better that way.

When you get the money for the lawyer's fee. Wait another week or two. Then, send a brief mispelled email about how you had a heart attack and are now partly crippled and half blind and about how you are trying to regain your strength to drag yourself down the street to the lawyer.....

Only hypothetically speaking, of course. I would never advocate such dishonest schemes.
posted by troutfishing at 7:32 AM on May 15, 2004

And, I would never, ever be capable of hatching such devious, manipulative plots off the top of my head.

I must have read about something like that online and then completely forgotten about it.
posted by troutfishing at 7:41 AM on May 15, 2004

Also - if you get a promising bite - you could contact certain metafilter members for creative input, to make it a collaborative project. Group projects are always more fun.
posted by troutfishing at 7:55 AM on May 15, 2004

I say, hand the project over to troutfishing. He's devious!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2004

Sounds like a phishing scam. There's always extra money involved that you need to send back, and the whole point of the scam is to get your bank info and that "extra" money. The check isn't good. Your bank will let you write a check on it instantly though, but in a week or two you'll find out the check is fake.
posted by mathowie at 9:27 AM on May 15, 2004

It's definitely a scam. It typically happens through classified ads or eBay for high value items like cars. Read The Classic Overpay Scam for more information.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:49 PM on May 15, 2004

I would urge you not play with this guy.

In the p-p-p-owerbook case, an ocean and anonymity shielded the pranker.

In this case, if you're not careful, the scammer knows where you live.

If you're American, isn't this a federal crime in the making? Tip off the authorities and then forget about it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:24 PM on May 15, 2004

It's always fun to mess around with scammers if you're sure that your identity and whereabouts are protected, but I'd say play it safe if there's the slightest chance that someone knows who you are or where you live.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:40 PM on May 15, 2004

krrrlson - Oh, that's no problem. You just have to purchase some vicious dogs and also dig a deep trench around your house. Line the bottom with punjee-stakes.
posted by troutfishing at 2:24 PM on May 16, 2004

Phishing scam? I had thoughts of guys reaking of petchuli with long dreads conning unsuspecting Kenny G. fans out of hard-earned dough.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:29 PM on May 16, 2004

*makes mental note of never, ever pissing troutfishing off*
posted by matteo at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2004

I would at least hold on long enough to actually get the fake cashier's check, if only to keep it as a souvenir :) if you're really in a daring mood, you could just tell him you cashed it all and decided to keep it. If he gets the idea that his fakes are good enough to actually work, he'll dig his own grave.
posted by GeekAnimator at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2004

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