(WASHINGTON) Michelle Jonasson-Jones, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based property agent, cautions potential tenants about a rental scheme making the rounds online that has caught the attention of the FBI.
Ms Jonasson-Jones said that she has had her listings for rental properties 'stolen' and relisted under a different name and a lower price, usually on Craigslist. The impostors send prospective tenants an 'application' and ask for their personal and financial information.
They tell prospective renters that the owner is working overseas and is unavailable to show the house.
'It used to be they were scamming the owner; now they're scamming the tenants,' she said.
Wendy Dufford, an intelligence analyst for the FBI in Columbia, South Carolina, wrote an article for the bureau's website after the South Carolina Association of Realtors called to report such a scam.
Tenants who had been scammed were showing up at people's houses, she said, believing they had rented from a missionary overseas.
A formal investigation won't be launched until a minimum threshold of losses is reported online, Ms Dufford said, but so far the FBI has discerned that the scam originated in Nigeria and is affecting cities nationwide.
'They're choosing victims because of the economy,' Ms Dufford said.
Many of the scam victims have been forced to rent, because they've lost their homes and are searching on Craigslist, she said.
'They try to rent these homes, and then they get their money stolen.' - WP
Source: Business Times, 18 Aug 2009