Friday, August 26, 2011

This Week I Got Scammed

This week I spent most of my time focused on leases. I don't want to sound like a snob, but leases pay somewhere between $50 and $100 each and so writing a couple of leases can be a thin paycheck week, and it’s a far cry from even a small sale. But here's what happened, I had two great lease clients who both really wanted to rent a unit that I had showed them--and nothing I tried to sell anyone else “stuck”--so a couple of leases to clients I enjoyed spending time with is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

I must say that for the moment (at least) I like both of my new lease clients, and am trying to provide each of them a comfortable lease with no downsides to them or the landowners. These are upwardly mobile people, and anxious to move into a home that is nicer than where they have been. Well to be fair, one of them is year 'round and moving up, the other is taking a condo in Sarasota for the winter. But that couple has been wintering on the east coast, so I am thinking they are moving up too.

And then I found myself in a scam.

Let me back-up my story about a week or two to the point when I listed a large condex, this was probably 10 days ago. I had known the owners for some time, and in fact years back my wife had been their agent and I had been the broker on the sale of this condex to these folks. Anyway, we met with them at the house and filled out the paperwork (Realtors are always filling out paperwork) so that I had their legal permission to rent the property.

A day or so later I entered the listing and almost immediately started getting calls. But here's where this one became different from any rental listing I ever have handled before. I started getting calls from people asking me why the home was cheaper on Craig's List than it was in the Multiple Listing.

I had meant to enter the home into Craig's List, but had not taken a full series of photographs when I was there to sign the listing agreements, principally because it was raining and I didn't want a rainy day to be memorialized in the listing photos, so I had come back a day or two later and taken the rest fo the photos. But the house had found it's way into Craig's list.

Two clients called me and asked why the home was on ly $900 a month in Craig's List and $1,500 in my listing. I had no answer—and really still don't—but here's what I know:

One of the clients had responded to the email in Craig's List, and asked about the home. They replied that they owned the house (not true) and that they planned to spend more time in Africa (probably true) and so they wanted to rent it cheaply to get a good tenant.
My client sent along her question and what follows is the answer:

From: Home Tagged <>
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 6:31 AM
Subject: Re: Rental

Thanks for your email. The house is still available. I decided to rent the house because we are going to spend more time here in West Africa, about 4 years... Let me start by introducing myself  I must confess that I am very very new in this landlord business.. However, My name is Sam Gerald. I own the house located at (here I removed the address). Due to my job as a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church International, I am presently serving as Area Financial Executive (AFE) with the United Methodist Church in Lagos, West Africa.I am responsible for receiving distribution of funds for various UMC projects in West Africa  , and all related works with other mission personnel. my current home is in the vineyard of the Lord in BENIN West Africa.I spent less time in the States so I could not get a hold on any Realtor to handle this rent issue, although it was when I knew how long we are going to stay in Africa  that I decided to rent out the house. However, the initial plan was to sale out the House. which I tried, but sometimes the agents inflates the prize and it takes longer to sell. because of this reason and more we need a responsible person (With good credit) that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money , but want it to be clean and for you to take it as if it were can call me at +23480-6060-5897.

The rent is $900 and 600 for Security Deposit
For this 3Bedroom,2Bath
Features: Air Conditioning, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Garage, Washer & Dryer, Yard

============================== =======
Application Comment
============================== =======

Please make sure this questions are fill correctly because the best way you answer with your comment will impress me the more to accept your applications.

Sam Gerald.

My client followed up with a request for more photos—remember I had not taken a full set when the property was first listed.  In the ensuing days I had filled in the photos in the multiple listing.  Somehow the scam artist had access to the photos in the multiple listing and managed to forward them on to her.  Here is his last email:

From: Home Tagged <>
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 7:09 PM
Subject: Re: Rental

Thanks for your mail.  Yes it has oversized deck  and i will coming for visit in the state and also great spaces at the back yard....below are more pictures of the inside!!do get back to me with rental application filled out so we can proceed

These were the newest photos I had just taken!  So this week I will be trying to deal with this kind of a scammer. 

Dane Hahn is a real estate professional with Tarpon Coast Realty in Boca Grande, Englewood and Sarasota.  He can be reached at or see his litings at

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