Apartment Rental Scam! — Can you see the red flags that identify an apartment listing as a scam? If a friend or family member were looking to rent an apartment, would THEY be able to see the signs of fraud? One of our readers figured it out and played with the scammer to collect the evidence so we can share it with you! Interestingly, this article in the NY Times from January 25, 2023 states that the Pew Research Center published findings in 2019 showing that about 36% of Americans are renting housing rather than owning it. (2019 was the last reliable figure on this percentage, according to the article.) In the European Union, the overall percentage of people renting properties is about 30%, but varies by country, according to the European Commission. This high percentage should help us understand why property rental scams have been a staple of fraudsters for years! We’ve published many articles about this type of fraud in the past such as the 2020-21 Craigslist Rental Scams and our older 2016 – 2020 Craigslist Rental Scams. Can you see through this fraud?
Last week, a woman we’ll call Maura contacted us to share her story. She was looking for an apartment in Jackson, Mississippi and came across a listing on Facebook Marketplace. (It was quickly taken down in less than 2 days.) The listing was for a “charming 2 bedroom bungalow” on156 Dettman Road. Interested parties are asked to contact “James Wieand” through his email “sir.james1655 @ gmail.com.” This email is, in fact, the first red flag because “James” has written it in a way to avoid scrutiny from Google searches or listing rules (if there are any) by including spaces around the @ symbol. Seeing that trick alone, tells us to proceed with caution!
Maura sent her first email to Mr. James Wieand and received the following response about an hour later. HOW MANY RED FLAGS CAN YOU SPOT IN HIS RESPONSE? We count at least 7 red flags! See our list below…
We saw LOTS of “red flags in Mr. Wieand’s response, many of which are commonly used in this type of fraud and about which we’ve reported in our feature articles about these scams. Here is our list. Please let us know if you think there are other “red flags!”
- Mr. Wieand’s description of a cheating agent, not to be trusted, makes no sense since real estate agents must be licensed and would lose their license and possibly face criminal charges.
- Mr. Wieand’s statement “You do not need to contact any agent when you get by the house cos if you do they will tell you sorts of rubbish” is a HUGE red flag! Again, that’s not in-line with real estate agent’s roles.
- Mr. Wieand is, conveniently, out of state and can’t show you the property he claims to own. He tells you to go look in the windows. SERIOUSLY?
- Break out your violins people and play a sad song for Mr. Wieand as we learn that he’s out of town due to his wife’s work and HIS battling leukemia! (What a LOW LIFE! Real people DO battle with this terrible disease.)
- Oh yeah…. He’s deaf so don’t ask to call him! This is hysterical and, along with #3 above, this fake circumstance is commonly used in these types of scams!
- If you want to rent it after looking in the windows, like a peeping Tom, he’ll send you the key in the mail as long as you wire him LOTS of money up front: $1,1139!
- This deal is TOO GOOD to be true! When we search for similar 2-bedroom properties in the Jackson, Mississippi area Zumper.com tells us that the average rent is $975/month. (Zumper even shows the average 1-bedroom is $875/month.) Mr. Wieand is asking about 27% less than the average 2 bedroom apartment! Coming in under average apartment rents is also a common scammer ploy.
Maura saw these red flags but continued the conversation with Mr. Wieand to see what she could gather and also to waste his time! The next exchange of emails also had more red flags from James Wieand and his last paragraph is nothing less than hysterical! We couldn’t help but wonder how Mr. Wieand would have responded if Maura had said she was a professional hooker or drug dealer.
Maura asked Mr. Wieand to send his application to her and she shared it with us. We’ve seen this application MANY TIMES before! Can you guess which question on this application is illegal to ask in the United States, according to Lawyers.com? Below is a screenshot of this “rent questionnaire.” We easily found copies of it on multiple public websites, including this link to the “Rent Questionnaire: Home Owners Association Usa” (notice the capitalization error) on Scribd.com. (This questionnaire, and other documents, were uploaded by someone named “Felipe Raposo.”)
Did you figure out which question on the application is illegal to ask in the United States, according to Lawyers.com? Apparently, it is illegal to ask if someone is married or not! In addition, however, why is it relative to ask if someone has a car? More red flags, for sure!
As we stated earlier, these apartment rental scams are a staple of criminals and consistently they….
- Use a property that is listed for sale or rent on other legitimate websites, including stolen images from that listing. If you see a property listed elsewhere, contact the listing agent to ask why it is listed for different prices and she/he will certainly confirm that your cheaper price listing is a scam site!
- NO LANDLORD WILL EVER mail you a key to an apartment you haven’t seen. Nor should you rent/buy a property that you haven’t walked through!
United Refund Scam! — Beware the United Refund scam! Deceptive scammers impersonating United/United Refund seek personal info for W2-related refunds. Stay vigilant and safeguard with ID Protection now! Check out for more details and protect yourself with this 100% FREE, all-in-one tool.
Strange Threat and Call About Your Refund — We saw the most bizarre and random extortion threat scam posted by a woman on the site Nextdoor.com last week. The scam included a phone call, several texts AND a video of men in ski masks getting into a car to come over and beat up the recipient if he didn’t pay money to the mob boss! (We don’t make this $%#T up!) At first we thought “Tony” had misspelled “escort girls” but it turns out that a Google search shows lots of sites also describing this group of women as “scort” girls. Check out these text messages and ask yourself how you would have responded…
The above scam is a perfect lead in to this question…. Do you hate scammers? We do! If you do as well, please take our survey on Pollfish so we can better assess our reader’s experiences with scams! Click the graphic below to visit the survey! Thank you for your time. (It helps us to better help you!)
Would you believe that research shows phishing scam websites are now appearing as frequently as every 11 seconds online? That fraud rate is insane! And then there are other fake websites like retail merchandise and many others! One of the best ways for you to stay informed and recognize these threats is by helping to build a list of these scamming websites, and check out the list from time to time. Visit the collaboration with EBRAND and GASA (the Global Anti-Scam Alliance) in this article titled How can consumers and institutions build a list of scamming websites.
One of our family members received this voice message from “Aubrey Cherise” about a “follow up reminder about your company’s refund.” Well, our family member who received it has no “company.” Before you imagine that this call may just have been a wrong number, note that Aubrey NEVER identifies her business or agency! And Aubrey’s call came from a phone number, 901-426-1907, in Memphis, Tennessee (This is nowhere near the state our family member lives in) and she’s asked to call 877-455-7544. When we looked up both of these phone numbers in Google, we only see links to malicious websites in Russia and South America!
Call from Aubrey at 901-426-1907
Netflix, Paypal, and What Do These Phish Have in Common? — Imagine being told in 2 separate emails from “Netflix” that your account is being suspended! That’s what one of our readers shared with us. She received them just 21 minutes apart and BOTH came from a server in Poland called Interia[.]pl. According to Wikipedia, Interia is a news reporting platform in Krakow. You know…..Netflix! And to make these emails even more credible, the links in the attached pdf files pointed to a website rotadoscabelos[.]com which, in Spanish, means “twisted hair.” You know…. Netflix.com?
Scammers are really giving us a lot to laugh about lately! Here’s another phishing scam that pretended to be from the “Support Team” at PayPal about your $462.5 bitcoin purchase. But the email came from the domain “Accelerating Social Good” DOT-com. We don’t think they sell bitcoin to advance social good, but maybe they ought to consider it now! You can get out your Air Horn can and call these lovely people up at 888-713-4974. Just remember to put on your noise-canceling headphones, OK?!
Our readers, our friends and our families are getting HAMMERED with a particular style/type of phishing scam. It’s a DELUGE every week! Besides being a phishing scam, ALL of these scams have one other thing in common. We’ve put together a graphic below of 4 of these scams. Can you find the 1 thing they all have in common, besides the fact that they are lies?
ANSWER: We’re seeing a HUGE number of phishing scams being sent from free Gmail accounts and containing an attached pdf with the details of the scam. (OK, technically that’s 2 things but please cut us some slack as we roll them into one.)
Milestone Mastercard — Our honeypot email accounts received five variations of the malicious clickbait below just last week alone. We have no idea why the Milestone Mastercard is a favorite of cybercriminals but, apparently, it is. It took us no effort at all to discover that the REAL Milestone Mastercard website is MilestoneGoldCard.com, which was registered back in 2013. On the other hand, this clickbait below was sent from a domain called trevo[.]me, which was registered a week before we received this email and it being hosted on a server in Kharkiv, Ukraine! What is VERY deceiving, and we want to make sure our readers understand this, are the links in this threat. They all point to Amazon’s AWS services. Don’t trust a link just because you see this and think it is related to Amazon! These AWS services are being misused by cybercriminals a lot! VirusTotal shows us that 3 services have identified this Amazon AWS link as malicious! (See screenshot below.)
We Are Unable to Deliver Your Package! — Oh boy, here we go again….malicious clickbait disguised as problems delivering your packages! We’ve seen these before but here are another two that deserve attention. The first is from your “Ups_Gift” but came from a free Gmail account. They include a photo of a lonesome box sitting on a floor. You can almost hear it crying silently asking to be delivered to your home. The link in this clickbait points to a website, zohoinsights-crm[.]com, that has appeared NINE times on the Maltiverse as hosting malware!
If it’s a theme you are looking for, we might call it the “misuse of free Gmail accounts” theme! Check out this “UPS tracking system” email that was sent from “nassor9000” using his free Gmail account! Your package can’t be delivered, again. But to confirm your address they want you to click a link that is NOT what it appears to be! The link doesn’t point to ups.com, it points to a website at beehiiv[.]com. And this busy bee site will NOT be your final destination! Beehiiv was found to redirect to a dirty website called mudbreak[.]com where malware lies in wait to pounce on you! Your computer will clearly need a cleaning after this experience. Check out the screenshots below…
Your US Postal Package Has Arrived — Several of our readers have received this scam text with nearly identical messages. We hope you notice the many mistakes found in it! Apparently the sender has an aversion to spaces between words. At least they wished you a wonderful day. The link in this text is usps-usp[.]com. The REAL US Postal service website is usps.com. The malicious mimic domain in this bogus text was registered in Singapore just a few days before this text was sent and yet 3 security services had already found it to be malicious! You know what to do!
Until next week, surf safely!
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