01-15-08 Police, BBB Issue Scam Alert
Boise, January 15, 2008 - The Boise Police Crime Prevention Unit wants to alert citizens to what looks like a new twist on an old scam.
Several recent calls have come into Boise Police alerting crime prevention specialists to ads on the popular internet site Craig's List. The scams offer homes or town homes for rent at a price well below market level. In each case, those interested are asked via e-mail to wire deposit money directly to Nigeria.
Boise Police have not been contacted by anyone who actually sent money to Nigeria. The BPD Crime Prevention Unit has been contacted by a property manager whose apartment complex address was given out via e-mail. The apartment complex manager says the site posting was completely fraudulent.
The department has also been contacted by a woman who says the ad for her home for rent appears to have been copied, with the contact information changed to the Nigerian e-mail address.
According to Charlene Miller, Boise Police Crime Prevention Specialist, the ads were noticed on Craig's List in late December and were still posted as recently as last week.
"The ads were found by people looking for really good deals," said Miller. "But you could use the old saying about these offers, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!"
Miller says that one of the ads offered a beautifully furnished 3 bedroom, 3 bath condominium, complete with utilities, cable and a computer with high speed internet, all for $600 a month. Those interested respond to the ad by e-mail. A reply is sent that asks for a $600 deposit to be sent via Western Union to an address in Lagos, Nigeria. Then, after the money is received, the response says, the keys and rental documents will be sent.
Boise Police fraud investigators say once money is wired out of the country, due to jurisdictional issues and investigative dead ends, the money is nearly impossible to trace or recover.
The Better Business Bureau's President, CEO Dale Dixon tells consumers to remember three rules for online classified ads:
- Deal locally. A face-to-face buyer-seller meeting is the best way to be sure the product you pay for is the product you get.
- Do not wire money. A request to wire money is the sure sign of a scam. Once you hit 'send', the money is nearly impossible to retrieve.
- Protect your identity. Be vigilant about protecting your Social Security, bank account and credit card numbers.