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Old 06-26-2021, 08:42 PM   #1
WillyK
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Default A very troubling unfolding scam

I wanted to share a troubling situation unfolding this evening, see if anyone has experienced the same.

We own a lakefront property in Moultonborough, but are not there this weekend. Our outdoor camera noticed a car pulling into the driveway. Two guys and two dogs wandering around, trying the doors. I used the audio feature on the camera to reach out. One of the gentlemen engaged and indicated that he was at the right address. I gave him my phone number, and he called.

Well, turns out this super nice guy, and his whole family (wife, buddy, 5 teenage boys, a brother flying in tomorrow from Chicago, and more) had rented OUR property from someone for the next 12 days. They had been exchanging emails and phone calls and payments with the supposed homeowner since February. As recently as this morning(!) they were on the phone confirming whether enough bedding was available. Ugh.

Clearly a scam. The wife did the booking, and doesnít know which site it was from, but is going to look it up, I encouraged her to send me the info so we can make sure itís not still listed. And of course told her weíd vouch as homeowners if the police need to ask any questions, etc.

I feel so horrible that this lovely family is, as we speak, having their big summer vacation evaporate out from under them. Breaks my heart. Now my wife is sitting here crying and cursing the psychotic perversion of scammers would would take advantage of families like this.

This home was on the market late last year (we bought in November). I highly suspect the scammers took the MLS listing photos, and use them to create a fake rental listing, craft rental contracts, answer questions, they used Venmo to accept down payments and final payments. Pretty elaborate and I can understand how someone could get taken in.

I will update here if we get any more info. But has anyone else encountered personally or heard of this kind of scam in our region?


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Old 06-26-2021, 09:09 PM   #2
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This is a really bad situation for everyone.

Suggest you contact the Moultonboro Police Department immediately so they can look into things for you.

Chances are really good that a lot more folks will be showing up over the next few months.

Meanwhile, the thieves from who knows where are enjoying their large income stream until they are put out of business (which is likely easier said than done).
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Old 06-26-2021, 09:21 PM   #3
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Yup, I contacted the local police. (Right after posting here on the forum. You knowÖpriorities.) They were sympathetic but, as youíd expect, they said thereís really nothing they can do in these situations.

The sergeant I spoke to said they see this not super often, but a few times per year.


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Old 06-26-2021, 10:04 PM   #4
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Default Wow

Iím sorry for your inconvenience. This is the first Iíve heard of this kind of scam, but itís a new world.

Would you mind sharing which website was used here?
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Old 06-26-2021, 10:09 PM   #5
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I had this happen about 2 years ago at my primary home in Rye. We are near ocean so also a vacation area. I was watching TV and there was a knock on the door. 4 people had driven down from northern Maine expecting to rent my house. They were very nice and upset they had been scammed. They showed me the ad (I think it was craigs list if I remember right) The address was correct but the pics were not my house. I had them come in and we called police. I was told there was not much they could do. The actual crime occurred in Maine when the booked it and they needed to file a report there. I don't know what became of it.
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Old 06-26-2021, 10:24 PM   #6
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Actually, I think it happens much more often than the police told you/believe.

In fact, just last week while touching base with pet sitters in the Moultonborough area, one of the people I called asked to call back because they were dealing with the same exact situation. That's at least two homes in one week.

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Old 06-26-2021, 10:43 PM   #7
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That is just awful! I had heard of this happening in other places in the country, but not here. Did the police say that they would step up patrols in the area? Actually, I am not sure that would accomplish much. I am sorry.
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Old 06-26-2021, 10:54 PM   #8
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This is quite common.

Fools and their money are soon parted.

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Old 06-26-2021, 11:07 PM   #9
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This exact same scenario unfolded about 10 years ago at our beach condo in Florida. A family from Connecticut, who happened to be the parents of the groom-to-be, showed up at our friendsí condo expecting to rent for a week. Naturally, they were scammed out of a lot of money, as well as panic-stricken just before a big wedding.


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Old 06-26-2021, 11:19 PM   #10
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Bet you are happy you had the camera's

I just added several more Outdoor Blink's (with the Two Way Talk) thanks to Amazon Prime day ($50/each). They run like 2 years on a pair of AA batteries and you can put them just about anywhere.

You'd be amazed who suddenly shows up when you're not around.

When we sold our last place we could monitor the "Drive Bys"

We bought last fall too and it was on AirBnb by prior owner, so we'll have to watch out too.

Thanks for the heads up.
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Old 06-27-2021, 06:27 AM   #11
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I rent on Winnisquam and 2 summers ago, a car pulled down the drive and said they were checking on the property they had sent a deposit on. I didn't mind showing them the place and asked if they had spoken to the owner. The name she gave wasn't the owner, so I called and they spoke w/ her. She had found it on craig's list and contacted them. They didn't help so she put her picture from VRBO and wrote scam on it, then posted it on craig's list. The potential renters had a contract with them and left it for her. We didn't have
any surprised visitors last year, so I think it finally got straightened out.
Good Luck!
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Old 06-27-2021, 07:46 AM   #12
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UNFORTUNATELY very familiar with this. This has been going on for years. Check Craigslist and Iíll bet your property is listed there. Our ocean property and Winnipesaukee property have both been targeted. You need to flag this listing and following up to report to FBI per Craigslist instructions if this is the case. Good luck


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Old 06-27-2021, 07:57 AM   #13
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Renting on craigs list without meeting the owners at the site has consequences... are people really this dumb? If the owners can't meet you at their home or have someone meet you there to view it... run, don't walk!
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Old 06-27-2021, 08:07 AM   #14
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It's sad to know there are so many dishonest people isn't it? This causes a problem for the people who legitimately rent out their houses and I am not sure how this is solved. It just amazes me what people think up. A little different situation, but for a while my cell number was listed for a rental somewhere in ski country (No. Conway area) and I got tons of calls asking questions about what they needed to bring and what time they could check in etc. I got so sick of it. I kept telling them this was a wrong number but some of them insisted it wasn't. It lasted for about two years although I did get one a while ago.
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Old 06-27-2021, 08:15 AM   #15
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Just like all scams, they target desperate people frustrated at available options. Scams during Covid have increased 10 fold because all legit properties are booked. They hook you with the line that "we have a cancelation". So people rush to send a deposit in fear of losing out. Even if these scammers just get a deposit out of multiple people they are making out big time because these scammers have multiple properties listed.

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Old 06-27-2021, 08:39 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swnoel View Post
Renting on craigs list without meeting the owners at the site has consequences... are people really this dumb? If the owners can't meet you at their home or have someone meet you there to view it... run, don't walk!
Not always. But buyer beware. Do your homework before mailing a check to anyone.

I have used Craigslist for years to rent out regular apartments as well as weekly rentals on Lake Winnipesaukee. There have been times when people expressed skepticism and I was able to resolve it and confirm ownership of the property to their satisfaction.

If you consider renting a property look at the tax assessors website to see who owns the property you are looking at. Also, look to see if the name and address you are sending the check to, if it is not the property address, belongs to the same person. Also, don't send a check to anyone you have not spoken to on the phone first. Just those simple steps will eliminate 99% of the scammers.

The foreigners behind most of the scams will drop off if you insist on a phone number. If you get excuses like " I am travelling for work now and can't talk on the phone" that is usually a good time to move on.

The same works in reverse. A lot of people want to do everything by text or email but I will not rent to anyone who I have not spoken to on the phone at least once. I want to be comfortable with who will be renting the property.

During the winter I routinely rent out a property on Winnipesaukee and have people mail the check to Florida. I have even sent a link to the assessors website to potential renters. Once they match up ownership records it works well.
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Old 06-27-2021, 09:01 AM   #17
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It should be fairly easy to confirm the owner of a rental property...real estate ownership is public information and all cities and towns have on line data bases of ownership. Renters should get the name of the owner, and check ownership on line. Of course, this isnít 100% ( trusts for example) but it can help confirm that a rental is in fact owned by the renter in a majority of instances. This happens a lot with long term apartment rentals. Some dirt bag will list an apartment for rent, with pictures of a totally different apartment, and claim they canít show it because it is currently occupied. Renters are so desperate, they will mail a check for first month and deposit, and get scammed. Out our way, some guy pocketed ten deposits on the same non existent apartment.
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Old 06-27-2021, 09:24 AM   #18
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Thanks for all the replies. I have heard nothing more from the scammed renters since last night, I hope they found somewhere for their family (and 2 huge dogs!) to stay.

In my brief conversation with them, they didnít recall which site they rented from, but said that it was not Craigslist (but who knows? I was a little suspicious they didnít know, TBH)

They indicated that in addition to all the photos, there was a full rental availability calendar. They also had multiple phone calls with the supposed owner (also less common, usually CL scams attempt to keep you on email at all costs). To me, the biggest red flag they should have noticed was paying by Venmo, rather than paying to an agency (which I believe then holds it in escrow until the rental completes).

I checked 10 popular rental sites plus Craigslist to see if I could find a scam listing, but didnít turn up anything (I did see one scam-defense post like @winniwannabe described, someone posting their own photo saying ďif you see this anywhere on CL, itís a scamĒ).

But definitely leaves me on edge, the thought that more victims could be showing up at my door all summer.


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Old 06-27-2021, 11:42 AM   #19
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My biggest concern is the amount of people that just flat out don't know and have not been taught how to check and see if a place is actually for rent or if it's a scam. Unfortunately, many people don't do the proper background checks and use digital wallet/payment systems which makes it even harder to trace and ever get your money back. This is not going to slow down and has only been accelerating with cryptocurrencies. If you don't understand how these platform work, highly suggest you read up on it and fully understand them.

From a home owners perspective, I am one of those that does check to see if any of my properties are "for rent" and not by me. This scam is well known and has been going on for years all around the world. Check the usual sites (VRBO, AirBNB, Homeaway etc.), but almost impossible to check Craigslist unfortunately. Takes 2 mins and suggest checking via the "map" and zooming in vs your address. Many won't give you the ability to list your address anyways to protect the properties, but do generally give 'general areas' of their location on the lake for example (Paugus Bay, vs Alton Bay, vs Wolfeboro Bay). Literally takes you 2 mins to do.

As a side note - other things to be VERY careful of with Airbnb, VRBO and others (especially when staying alone or with your significant other), are other people's/previous occupants ability to access your place while you're there or not. Safety is and can be of great concern and most people dont' think through when booking a nice weekend away.... Obviously the 'big companies' want to keep is hush hush to save face, but it's starting to trickle out there to the public with incidents being on the rise with articles like this...

Article calling it out: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/featu...entals-go-away

(Not trying to scare anyone, just want to make you aware there are deranged predators out there and to be careful when booking your time away).
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Old 06-27-2021, 01:37 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillyK View Post
Thanks for all the replies. I have heard nothing more from the scammed renters since last night, I hope they found somewhere for their family (and 2 huge dogs!) to stay.

In my brief conversation with them, they didnít recall which site they rented from, but said that it was not Craigslist (but who knows? I was a little suspicious they didnít know, TBH)

They indicated that in addition to all the photos, there was a full rental availability calendar. They also had multiple phone calls with the supposed owner (also less common, usually CL scams attempt to keep you on email at all costs). To me, the biggest red flag they should have noticed was paying by Venmo, rather than paying to an agency (which I believe then holds it in escrow until the rental completes).

I checked 10 popular rental sites plus Craigslist to see if I could find a scam listing, but didnít turn up anything (I did see one scam-defense post like @winniwannabe described, someone posting their own photo saying ďif you see this anywhere on CL, itís a scamĒ).

But definitely leaves me on edge, the thought that more victims could be showing up at my door all summer.


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Type your address in google and see what comes up. Then type your address plus rental and see if it shows up. The renters not knowing the agency sounds very suspicious. I would be very upset if this happened to me as a renter.
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Old 06-27-2021, 02:37 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickiej View Post
It should be fairly easy to confirm the owner of a rental property...real estate ownership is public information and all cities and towns have on line data bases of ownership. Renters should get the name of the owner, and check ownership on line. Of course, this isnít 100% ( trusts for example) but it can help confirm that a rental is in fact owned by the renter in a majority of instances. This happens a lot with long term apartment rentals. Some dirt bag will list an apartment for rent, with pictures of a totally different apartment, and claim they canít show it because it is currently occupied. Renters are so desperate, they will mail a check for first month and deposit, and get scammed. Out our way, some guy pocketed ten deposits on the same non existent apartment.
Additionally, you can look up a trust or company name on the NH business registration page and get the legal representative and often direct contact info for the owner or trustee.
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Old 06-27-2021, 03:11 PM   #22
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Actually, I think it happens much more often than the police told you/believe.

In fact, just last week while touching base with pet sitters in the Moultonborough area, one of the people I called asked to call back because they were dealing with the same exact situation. That's at least two homes in one week.

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Happened in our neighborhood two summers ago. It was posted on Craigslist. Entire family and their parents showed up. Brought a boat and everything. Completely agree, I think it happens more often than people care to admit. They grab pictures off of Zillow or Realtor.com and away they go. Pretty sad stuff.
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Old 06-27-2021, 06:34 PM   #23
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This is absolutely awful. Some real scumbags out there! Thanks for sharing this.


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Old 06-27-2021, 09:47 PM   #24
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There have been a few posts regarding people getting scammed like this recently on the Winni Facebook pages. What a horrible thing to do to someone and I canít imagine arriving for your vacation only to find out youíve been ripped off and have no lodging.


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Old 06-28-2021, 05:52 AM   #25
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I agree, I can't imagine. It must be heartbreaking. Where do they go?
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Old 06-28-2021, 11:03 AM   #26
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Default HomeAway

HomeAway was a great platform when it came out and worked well for years, until Expedia bought it and wanted to get their hands on the bank book, fees, etc. The way things are now they add at least $4-500 to the renter's cost. With the old HomeAway the emails went directly to the owner and you could decide to reply or ignore any email. You could get a general feel from conversations or emails whether the renter was worth the risk. You could also send renters your own lease, receive deposits in the mail, etc. Simple. I bailed years ago and still have some of the same renters I originally got from HomeAway.
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Old 06-28-2021, 09:16 PM   #27
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The state of NH is always interested in collecting the room and meals tax on short term rentals. I believe in the recent past they passed a requirement that listings, adverts etc had to list the state license info. If a renter tells you to do a lot off line to avoid the tax, I'd be suspicious.
Especially if you're signing up for something last minute, an agency that will take a credit card when mailing checks and paperwork is too slow, gives you that added protection of contesting a payment through the CC company.
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Old 06-29-2021, 07:50 AM   #28
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Default Law enforcement enforcing...

What I can't understand, is why law enforcement can't "follow the money" and catch these scammers? I believe the money is always transferred electronically...To where? Nigeria?

Always ask if you can view the place in person (even if you are unable to...Ask). There will always be an excuse as to why the "owner" can't meet and will insist on electronic money transfer. Last year it was COVID-19 excuses.

I was trying to rent an apartment for someone for the summer and got caught up in a scam. The "owner" said he couldn't show the condo in person but posted lots of photos. One photo had a shot out a window... in the distance was a sign with the name of the condo community on it and phone #. I called the manager, and was glad I did. I avoided the scam.

Does not a money transfer go from one identifiable account to another? Why can't the owner of these accounts be identified and accounts frozen? How do they stay ahead of the law?

I'm too stupid at ripping off others to be able to figure this out.
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Old 06-29-2021, 08:08 AM   #29
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What I can't understand, is why law enforcement can't "follow the money" and catch these scammers? I believe the money is always transferred electronically...To where? Nigeria?

Always ask if you can view the place in person (even if you are unable to...Ask). There will always be an excuse as to why the "owner" can't meet and will insist on electronic money transfer. Last year it was COVID-19 excuses.

I was trying to rent an apartment for someone for the summer and got caught up in a scam. The "owner" said he couldn't show the condo in person but posted lots of photos. One photo had a shot out a window... in the distance was a sign with the name of the condo community on it and phone #. I called the manager, and was glad I did. I avoided the scam.

Does not a money transfer go from one identifiable account to another? Why can't the owner of these accounts be identified and accounts frozen? How do they stay ahead of the law?

I'm too stupid at ripping off others to be able to figure this out.
Even if they did follow the money who are they going to arrest in Nigeria? This is a low interest crime where it doesn't warrant the time and money to try to arrest criminals in these counties.
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Old 06-29-2021, 09:58 AM   #30
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Even if they did follow the money who are they going to arrest in Nigeria? This is a low interest crime where it doesn't warrant the time and money to try to arrest criminals in these counties.
Maybe per crime, it's low interest, but the aggregate makes it a big deal. And I'm sure the scammers are in the felony range. I'll be willing to wager we've never investigated where these come from....international or domestic.

Bottom line, is buyer needs to be very aware these days before parting with their money.

We have no leverage with a country like Nigeria? Wow, are we that weak?

In 1997 I broke up a Nigerian fraud-ring that The Secret Service couldn't find(Secret Service investigates credit card fraud).

I had a database they had no access to and were prohibited from using my data. But since my company was in an attempt at fraud, I was able to use my data to assist law enforcement. Omeka Opara, a Nigerian national, and his entire family were arrested operating a fraud-ring through out the West coast.

My database became know within law enforcement. I used this data twice to assist law enforcement. The second time, what I did was technically illegal and I met with a government investigator in secret and busted another Nigerian family involved with welfare and unemployment fraud. It was explained to me that these operatives were sponsored by the Nigerian Govt. (whatever that is) and the operatives got to keep a percentage of the take and the rest was transferred to Nigeria.

I wonder what happens to Nigerian fraudsters in China or Russia?
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Old 06-29-2021, 10:35 AM   #31
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I imagine this is not an isolated situation.
The renters involved contacted me around 830pm Saturday night and I have let them stay in my personal guest house in Wolfeboro the last few nights while they sort out where to go.
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Old 06-29-2021, 11:03 AM   #32
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Thank you to Gary in San Fran who at least is watching our back when it
comes to fraud. I agree w/ him that blind eyes are turned toward any
countries like Russia and China, who obviously aide and abet these offenders.
In my opinion, it's sad that Govt. doesn't pursue alot of this, but then again, it's not them being hit in the wallet, it's the little guy. Like it was said...it's buyer
beware!
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Old 06-29-2021, 12:22 PM   #33
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I imagine this is not an isolated situation.
The renters involved contacted me around 830pm Saturday night and I have let them stay in my personal guest house in Wolfeboro the last few nights while they sort out where to go.
So glad to hear that, I felt badly we couldn't help more, you earned some great karma points!

I have not heard back from the family, so still unclear where exactly this scammer was fishing for victims, and may never find out.

I think one of the big issues with investigating these scams is jurisdiction. If a local theft took place on the order of thousands of $$, it would be worth investigating deeply. But in this case, who is incentivized to do the leg work? The Moultonborough police? (neither the criminal nor the victim are from here). The victim's hometown? (no local connection, no reason to suspect more victims or impact to the local economy) The criminal's location? (unknown...)

And for isolated incidents by many scammers a few grand at a time, the FBI must have bigger fish to fry.

If local authorities aren't even bothering to investigate porch thefts of Amazon packages, this seems like a crime that will sadly fall through the cracks.

Stay vigilant online, educate your friends and family, lots of good tips in this thread to protect loved ones.
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Old 06-29-2021, 12:47 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Patiently Watching View Post
I imagine this is not an isolated situation.
The renters involved contacted me around 830pm Saturday night and I have let them stay in my personal guest house in Wolfeboro the last few nights while they sort out where to go.
How did they contact you? Did you know them?
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Old 06-30-2021, 11:21 AM   #35
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Tis, as I understand, the wife was in line at Hannaford in Meredith when she got the news from her husband. It just so happened that the clerk had cleaned for us in the past and gave her my number.
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