“Roommate” 419 Scam

Here’s an interesting form of advance fee fraud I hadn’t heard of before; it’s a good example of 419 scammers ruining yet another casual online marketplace.

Let’s say you have a room you want to rent. You put up a “housemate wanted” ad on Craigslist or wherever. Here’s the the reply you’ll get:

Hi There,

How re you doing? I hope all is well. I’m martha Robot , am 26 yrs old and Am originally from chester united Kingdom . Graduate of I have a master degree in fashion design and I work as a professional fashion designer. I’m am not in the united kingdom right now, i am presently in West africa . I am currently working on contract for a company call (African Family Home Fashions) here in West Africa which the contract will be ending soon. I will be returning to your place soon. I enjoy traveling, It is very interesting to get more knowledge about the new countries, new people and traditions. It’s great to have such a possibility. As i was searching through the web i saw the advert of your place . I would like to know maybe it’s still available becasue i’m extremely interested in it. Here are the questions i would like to know about the room before planing to move in to the following questions below:

A}I will like to know the major intersection nearest your neighbourhood.like shopping mall,Churches,bus line e.t.c

B}I will like to know the total cost for the my initial move as in first month rent and if you accept deposit.

C}I will like to know if there is any garage or parking space cos I will have my own car come over.

D}I will like to have the rent fee per month plus the utilities.

E}I will like to have the description of the place, size, and the equipments in there.

F}I will also like to know Your payment mode.

G}I will like to know if I can make an advance payment ahead my arrival that will be stand as a kind of commitment that I am truely coming over and for you to hold the place down for me.

I will be very glad to have all this questions answered with out leaving a stone unturned…You can Call my Landlord for more references in UK ..+447024046815.

Email me back:

Thanks. Martha.

Needless to say, this is a scam. Here’s how it works (courtesy of this post): The interested “applicant” will send a cashier’s check or money order for the deposit, the value of which greatly exceeds the actual amount requested. They will then claim the overpayment to be an honest error based on their confusion about how these things work, and ask the victim to send back a money order refunding that amount, or to send it on to a “travel agent” who is supposedly booking the scammer’s flight. The payment will be made via a non-refundable mechanism like the 419er’s favourite, Western Union. It will be a matter of great urgency, as they will claim to need the funds to make the trip over. Her money order will clear, their’s will not — and there’s no way to refund the payment, so it’s gone. This is a classic advance-fee fraud trick, it seems.

Got to love that nom de plume, though — “Martha Robot”. GREE-TINGS MAR-THA RO-BOT!

Googling for ‘major intersection nearest your neighbourhood’ churches bus finds plenty more:

Finally, a Washington-based realtor has written up a good walkthrough of the scam. He notes:

I recently ran an ad on craigslist.com to see if they were still working it. Craigslist has posted many warnings against responding to such solicitations and I was curious if the scammers had moved on to more fertile ground. They have not; I received 16 such inquiries in one day to a simple ad offering a room for rent in Bellevue. I used a fictitious identity and a newly created email address. I’ll use the emails from just one of them as an example. This particular scammer managed to have a check on my doorstep by the next day!

(thanks to nimbus9 for the headsup)

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5 Comments

  1. Bart Schaefer
    Posted July 10, 2008 at 22:10 | Permalink

    My mom runs a B&B and this sort of thing shows up quite regularly, mostly claiming to be church groups asking to book a block of rooms for a “conference in your area”. The format is almost exactly the same as what you posted except for a few of the questions, clearly someone filling out a template.

    Mom’s B&B has only two rooms and is 45 miles from the nearest (still unlikely) place such a conference might occur …

  2. manhattanite
    Posted July 12, 2008 at 16:58 | Permalink

    i noticed i got a few emails that looked suspiciously similar, specifically the broken english and almost the same 7 questions. also, the emails didnt match the names, a stupid mistake of the sender. googling dawn louise jamison brought me to your webpage. i am renting out my apt in manhattan over the past few days! thank u for ur help!

  3. dawn louis jamison
    Posted April 8, 2009 at 00:43 | Permalink

    I googleed dawn louis Jamison as well and here I am. Dont’ these ppl have a better things to do?

    Dave Kelly who’s niece is coming to town was also another on I got. BEWARE and thanks so much for this post!

    My neice name is kate blake.She is 22 years old student of Universty of East London.she is responsible,neat,non-smoker and easy going.I will send you my US cashier cheque of $3650 which i bought the last time i visited U.S.I am sending you that much money because my dad is very sick at the moment and i need to go out of town to take care of him and i need to go with all the money i have with me because i dont know how much money am going to spend for his hospital bill and take care of neccessary things.The cashier cheque is for US which is cashable at your bank and its not cashable here in UK.I made promise to my neice that if she performs very well in her exams in the University that am going to send her to the US.she has performed very well and i dont want to dissapoint her.So once you receive the cashier cheque,take it to the bank and cash it,remove the first month rent payment and Send the balance down to my neice through western union money transfer so she can buy her ticket and buy necessary things she will need to bring along because i will be away from town to take care of my dad because he is sick at the moment.Send me your name, address and phone number so i can write the cheque payable to your name.

    Hope to hear from you as soon as possible so i can send the cheque to you before i leave town to my dad’s place

    Regards

    Dave

  4. Fred
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 00:18 | Permalink

    I recently posted an ad on Craigslist looking for employment and have received at least 10 of these same emails from various named individuals. I figured I was being scammed but didn’t realize until I did some research just how bad this situation really is! Be careful because they are definitly still on Craigslist and responding to every ad including employment ads!!

  5. Travis Petesan
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 16:09 | Permalink

    This has just happened to me for a room I have available. The girl lives in Ireland and goes by gladys wright. Supposedly works for Coca-Cola Bottling company and has the exact references as being written. She was all about getting to the US and her things coming over in an urgent matter and then I had to put up $1850 for a shipper of her things… The I was to get a code from Western Union to get $4200 back… Boy I hope no one has paid anyone any money out of their pocket. These people need a life!!!

    Good Luck!