The type of scamming that seems pointless

23 May

I’ve been in the process of subletting my apartment for the summer, since I will be in Paris for a study abroad program, then in Hong Kong, then back to LA until school starts in the fall. Like everyone else in the city, I’ve been relying heavily on Craigslist to get the word out (while also lowering the rent a bit every week).

One person, named Rachel Watson, emailed back with this message:

Hello There
I came across your AD posted on that you have a
sublet space available…I am Rachel Watson,25,female,from USA but
lived and work in Spain,I am a graduate of Buffalo University,NY where
i studied Economics,I worked as a sales Representative in a fast
growing Industry,Goliath Industry, i will be coming to USA
later this month to advertise some of our products.I will want you to
confirm the availability of the space,what price does it goes for?and
how long you are willing to rent it out? N.B..pls endeavor to reply
back my mails via will be waiting to read from
you asap……

Ok, pretty standard, but I was a bit annoyed at the fact that this person obviously didn’t read the ad, because she asked about the price, and how long the apartment was available for…and I think my annoyance shone through in my response email:

Hi Rachel,

As the ad states, the price per month is $1950, utilities and internet included, and is available for three months from May 30th till August 30th.

Please let me know if you are still interested. Thanks.


The next day, I get this email with the subject, “WAITING TO HEAR FROM YOU” (just like that, all in caps):

Thanks for your prompt responses and am okay with the price and explanations,…I am very happy for your reply that shows the kind of person i am thinking of renting from and how kind you are..For the payment that is not a problem at all…Because my boss will be highly responsible for all the expenses of the payment all i have to do is to confirm the amount of the space including the utilities and then get it sent to him including the information’s in which the payment will be issued to..,So all i require of you is for you to send me your..
So that i can forward it to my boss because my boss will be paying you in advance because of my flight ,So you get back to my travel agent who is in United state with the rest of the money via western union…in order to get my ticket booked so that i can be in state asap… waiting to hear from you….

BAD grammer. I was getting a bit suspicious at this point, and really not sure I wanted to rent my apartment to someone who wrote emails like this (even though I’ve left COPE, I still subscribe to the Allen Miller School of Professional Conduct) so I wrote back:


I’ve lowered the rent down to $1950/month, but do want to know a little more about you, as you may potentially be spending three months in my home. What is it that you do (as a job), and what will you be in the city for? What is the name of your company, and what does that company do? What is your boss’s name? Could you also please provide me with a couple personal references? I’d appreciate it. Where are you currently located?

As for your inquiries, my full name is Cynthia Wang. The address of the apartment is (blah blah blah), and my phone number is (blah blah).

Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thanks.


Didn’t give out any information that I wouldn’t give out any potential subletter, right? Next day, I get this, with the subject, “THE PAYMENT WILL BE SEND TO YOU SOON” (oooh boy, I can’t wait for the payment to be SEND to me!):

I got the information and will forward it to my Boss so as to make the payment as soon as possible….so as soon as you have it,just get back to me so i can send you my travel agent’s info.where to send the excess money for my flight….thanks a lot and have a nice day…
Best Regards….

WTF?! So here’s my response:


You have not answered my questions nor provided personal references, and your emails reflect an aura of unprofessionalism, and a whole lot of ambiguity and opacity. I’m looking for someone I can trust to rent this apartment. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable with this transaction – I’m going to have to pass. Good luck with your apartment hunt.


Lots of suspicion at this point. Definitely thinking something fishy’s going on. So yesterday, I get this email, with the subject as “GET BACK TO ME ASAP”:

Hello there

How was your day,the payment has already be sent to you, and am very interested in having the room that was why my boss made the payment out to you , so whats next now and i will be waiting to get the from you……Thanks alot for all and pls dont forget to have the $100 deducted for yourself ok..take care and have a wonderful weekend


My response (I should mention that Al was here watching Buffy and jamming with me at this point – this was yesterday – when I got this email):

Hey Rachel,

I found someone else to sublet my apartment, so the apartment is no longer available. Thanks for your interest, and good luck in your search. If I receive any money in the mail, I will forward it back to your company.


And, just for good measure, and because Al suggested it would probably be a good idea, I sent a second email:

Just so we’re clear, I will NOT in any way be accepting any of your money (I don’t know what this $100 deducted is about – you’re not making any sense) and I will NOT be subletting my apartment to you. It is unavailable. Sorry, and good luck with finding another apartment.


In hindsight, I’m being incredibly gullible (would have probably found it in the dictionary had you told me to look), but maybe not thinking it’s exactly a scam just yet because I was not asked to offer anything to her (ie: to wire money somewhere – I was the seller, not the buyer). Late last night, I received this response with the subject, “PAYMENT COMING IN TODAY….HERE IS THE TRACKING NUMBER”:

Hope all is pretty cool with you over there? am very happy to informed you that the payment for my rent is coming in today unfailingly.Here is the tracking number (j223958 6195) go to and have it track so that you can know the exact time it will deliver to you today.As soon as you receive the check you should have it cash, deduct the rent and any deposit needed for my move in…After that You will deduct extra $100 for yourself which will serve as compensation cus i guess am taking you thru stress for helping me…Then you will have the balance forwarded to my travel agent via WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER who will work on my paper and get my ticket booked so that i can be in the state as soon as possible.
So as soon as you have the cash and have deducted all neccessary charges ….You will go to western union outlet with CASH balance and my travel agent information then you will transfer the money to the travel agent using the information bellow

NAME……..Johannes Gilo,
Street……611 Mallory Drive,

As soon as you have the money sent to him you will need to get back to me with the western union details such as..
1…MTCN (money transfer control number) Its always on the receipt that
will be given to you at western union..
2…Total amount sent after deducting western union charges
3…Senders name and address as it is written on the receipt given to you at western union..
Thanks alot for your understand and i will be waiting to hear from you again as soon as you read this message…Take care and have a blessed working day………

After doing some research online, I realized that both buyers AND sellers can be scammed. My response:

This is a scam and I am reporting you to proper authorities.

…and copied on it. On the Craigslist scam site, I found a situation that fits my experience perfectly (it was #2 on their list of Examples of Scams):

2. distant person offers a genuine-looking (but fake) cashier’s check

  • you receive an email (examples below) offering to buy your item, or rent your apartment, sight unseen.
  • cashier’s check is offered for your sale item, as a deposit for an apartment, or for just about anything else of value.
  • value of cashier’s check often far exceeds your item – scammer offers to “trust” you, and asks you to wire the balance via money transfer service
  • banks will often cash these fake checks AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE WHEN THE CHECK FAILS TO CLEAR, including criminal prosecution in some cases!
  • scam often involves a 3rd party (shipping agent, business associate owing buyer money, etc)

And here’s an article that talks about it. If only I had read these earlier. My question is, what does the scammer get out of something like this? I mean, the worst thing I can do is deposit the check (if it comes – I’m sort of hoping it does so I can check it out) and be held responsible for it. The scammer seems to get nothing.

Thoughts, anyone?

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Posted by on May 23, 2009 in Uncategorized


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