Snakes and Hakas (or How to Scam a Scammer)
We recently heard from someone who’d spotted an ad on SpareRoom, replied and was concerned that there was something fishy going on. We stop over 99% of scam ads before they even get onto the site but the odd one contains absolutely no clues until the advertiser starts emailing people. We’d already spotted this and were investigating it so the user said he’d carry on communicating with the scam landlord to see whether he could get any more info out of him so we could track him down.
The exchange of emails below is worth reading for 2 reasons:
- It’s a good lesson in how scammers communicate so it’s worth arming yourself with the knowledge (things like not being able to view the flat without paying, insistence on Western Union payment etc)
- It’s damn funny. Our tenant (let’s call him J.) has a wicked sense of humour!
After an initial enquiry about the ad our tenant had the following response.
I realy appreciate you have interest in my flat, the flat located at the city center of clapham (1 XXX Road,Clapham Junction,London Battersea SW11 London) is very close to amenities like,restaurant, medical center and university……the flat is fully equipped with modern facilities. wireless internet service, dishwasher, microwave, washing machine and air conditioner.
The flat comprises living room,bedroom,kitchen, dinning room,bathroom and toilet…the rent is 500pounds monthly including all bills and the refundable security deposit is 500pounds.
I have been here in the Stoke for past 3weeks with my family due to transfer at place of work and we will be here for 20 months. So, i am renting my apartment for maximum of 18 months and minimum of 1 month.
As regards viewing, I’ll suggest you visit the apartment and view the exterior for the time being. I already gave you the address, I have been disturbed a lot by prospective tenants such that I came all the way from Stoke and waste my time, some doesn’t have the cash for the rent but I wouldn’t like to go through such stress anymore. Please, kindly get back to me and let me know your decisions after viewing but I’m very sure, you will never regret this apartment and if you plan to make reservation of the flat let me know.
I looked at the exterior on Google Maps streetview, and it looks fine to me. From the photos, it looks extremely nice inside, and I’d really like to view it in person, when convenient for you.
I’m a professional working in the City. The rent isn’t a problem. I need to give my current landlord one month’s notice to move out. So ideally, I’d like to move in one month after viewing the flat. But if that’s a problem and you need someone in sooner than one month, I can sort something out. I’d like to rent it for the maximum 18 months.
I’m available at any time. When is convenient for you to show me the flat?
I really appreciate your interest in my apartment, I will be willing to rent out my apartment to you.In renting the apartment we will both sign a rental agreement contract form then i will post the keys of the apartment plus other necessary documents to you or i should come back to london and hand over the keys to you in person after your first month rent and the deposit payment 1000pounds has been confirmed. Do get back to me with the below information so that we can proceed further:
Your full name:
Your full address:
Move in date and out:
With those information,i shall prepare the rental agreement which will be signed by you and me. When you have the contract, you will have to print it out, sign it and scan it back to me along side with the payment receipt (to be transferred into my bank account). The address you provide in the mail is where keys and other necessary documents will be posted.
Before signing anything, or paying any money, I need to view the flat myself in person. Also, in your first email, you said the deposit is £500, not £1,000?
Let me know when is convenient for you, or your agent, to show me the flat. Then we can take it from there.
The 1000 pounds is for a month rent and deposit. there’s no body to show you the flat i have all the keys with me…I have been disturb alot by prospective tenant that telling me to come for viewing all the way from Stoke to london and when i eventually come back for viewing they didn’t have the cash for the rent some didn’t show up again telling me that they finally got another flat many stories like that. that’s why i am giving you the address of the flat to make exterior viewing. I have to see the proof of a month rent and deposit before coming back for viewing.
I am not going to pay or sign anything until I have viewed the interior of the flat, and have the keys. After I have viewed the flat, I will sign a tenancy agreement. After I have the keys, I will pay the deposit + first month’s rent. Not before.
I’m sorry, but this all sounds very suspicious. If the photos are of the flat, and there aren’t any problems with it, then I can assure you, I’ll take the flat. But I’m absolutely not going to send you £1,000 in good faith that you’ll send me the keys and tenancy agreement. Would you?
I’ve had second thoughts. I’m really desperate for a flat, and really want this one. How do I send the money to you?
Attached to this email is the lease contract form try to print it out, read the terms and conditions, if you are okay with it, sign it and scan the last page of the form to me where you sign so that i can sign my own part to proof that you have pay for the rent and the flat has been reserved for you.
After that you will proceed to bank and make deposit of 1000pounds which is for a month rent and deposit into my bank account.
Once you have done with the deposit, get back to me with the scan copy of the deposit reciept to proof that you have make the deposit into my account and as soon as i recieved the confirmation of the money i will get back to you and we can now arranged how to meet in london later today or tomorrow and hand over the keys and the reciept to you in person.
Here’s my details to make the transfer.
BANK NAME: XXXXXXX XXXX
BENEFICIARY NAME: XXXXXX XXXXXX
ACCOUNT NUMBER: XXXXXXXX
SORT CODE: XXXXXX
Thank you for the tenancy agreement and your bank details.
I have a couple of questions about the agreement. It says, PETS: Tenant shall not keep any Pets on the Premises without the prior written consent of the Landlord.
I own a Naja Naja (Indian Cobra), called Pete. I hope you’re OK with me keeping him in the flat?
Ok no problem.
Thank you so much. Snakes get such a bad press, especially six-foot cobras, and I often have problems when moving into somewhere new. I appreciate your understanding.
The agreement also says, ALTERATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS: Tenant agrees not to make any improvements or alterations to the Premises without prior written consent of the Landlord.
Looking at the photos you sent me, I think the colour scheme you’ve gone for might anger Pete. Did you hire a colour consultant? Also, if he did escape from his wicker basket, he would be well camouflaged against the bedroom walls. Not a good thing.
Please may I re-decorate? I would like to paint the walls Raspberry Diva in matt. Would that be OK?
If you’re ready for the flat go ahead and make deposit into my account and get back to me. No time to waste.
Please be assured, I am absolutely ready, and able, to make the deposit. I just need to confirm a couple of things with the contract first. Obviously this is all subject to contract: we need to agree the terms first.
Can I re-decorate the flat? Please let me know.
I’ve agreed with my current landlord that I can move out immediately, so I’m just waiting on you to agree the tenancy agreement terms.
Yes no problem
Awesome. You’re a great landlord, dude. Has anyone ever told you that?