Fairfax County police are warning Mount Vernon District residents about a scam involving home rentals.
According to police, the victim finds a listing on Craigslist for a home for rent in the Mount Vernon area, with a “reply to” link in the advertisement. The “owner” purports to be a pastor on a mission in Nigeria for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
After exchanging e-mails, the (very good) price and security deposit is quoted. Attached is a “rental application” for the prospective tenant to fill out and return. The “owner” sweetens the deal with information garnered in the first email exchange, telling the prospective tenant if they check out OK, the house would be available long-term to them.
Once confirmed, the prospective tenant would wire the money overseas to the “owner.”
Police said the scam is very clever and has used tricks to try to dispel questions, gain victims’ confidence and lure the funds to be sent. The housing information is easily obtainable via online public access to property tax records.
Fairfax County residents can have their name and information removed from view on the Fairfax County Tax Administration’s property inquiry public website by submitting a request to the real estate division using the contact us form on the website or by calling 703-222-8234.
Police have released the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Always verify – be very careful about making any large purchases or transactions via online barter or classified ad sites.
- Never agree to a contract or exchanging money sight unseen.
- Do not agree to wire funds.
- Do not give out personal information or financial information.
- Do some independent research (at the least, use an internet search engine to look for information about similar situations or experiences).
- If it sounds too perfect or too good to be true – IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
- Look for misspellings, missing or incorrect punctuation or broken English.
- For whatever reason, in many e-mail/web scams the letter “I” is often typed in the lower case.
- Take a look at the errors or syntax issues these sentences or terms such as “US$2000,” which Americans generally do not use.