Yep. Mean people suck. This week at the Purple House, I almost fell prey to an online scam. We have all heard horror stories and have received e-mails about internet security, identity theft, and avoiding e-mail viruses, etc., but I have never ever myself actually been personally touched any of those incidents. But dear friends, my scam cherry has officially been popped.
In light of increasingly tight budgetary situation (I’m sure many of you can relate) I decided to advertise for a roommate to live with me in the Purple House, alleviating my monetary stresses. I placed ads in several local publications, as well as the Richmond branch of CraigsList. So far, I’ve gotten one bite, a bite better left unbit. An alleged female in South Dakota by the name Lucy Okuyade (just Google that, for fun) contacted me saying she wanted to move to the area, that she was a social worker, of German birth, plenty of personal information, and would be willing to pay a deposit in advance of moving here. We exchanged a couple e-mails, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss.
Perhaps I was just nervous because I couldn’t check her out in person, face-to-face, perhaps it was because I couldn’t get through on the phone number she provided for her uncle in England as a reference, but I began to dig. I started by mapping the two addresses she’d given me for her current address and her uncle’s England address. Neither looked to be residential, and the one in England was a hospital. Then, on a lark, I decided to Google her name. Instantly I got several results with her name, CraigsList, and “scam” all featured prominently.
Turns out, I cut it pretty close. “She” (probably an 80-year-old Chinese woman or child pirate or a sentient computer named HAL or something) has stolen thousands of dollars from others in the same scam, wiring enough money to the victim to cover security deposit, the full first month’s rent, plus money for the movers, then asks (not sure why) that the victim in turn pay a portion to that for the movers. Of course, the victim cashes the check, wires the money to the movers, and finds out in a week that the check was invalid and they are responsible for the funds. The movers, in turn, have made off with their money.
So, yeah, fun. I’ve been on the phone with the police and the Atty General’s office this morning. All I can say is – yay for intuition. Other than that, here are a couple things I’ve learned:
- Never give personal information over the internet, or as little as possible, until you have verification of the other person’s identity.
- Always ask for references, and always follow up on them.
- Google is your friend. Look up people’s names, addresses, etc. Although it’s sort of creepy, I was very grateful for the GoogleMaps street-level view – allowed me to actually view the scammer’s alleged address.
- If someone wires you money, always be sure it is for the exact amount due and wait for it to clear before moving ahead with your plans. If it’s bogus, you won’t be out money, just pride. Never forward on a portion for them, regardless of their sob story excuse.
- A lot of people, myself included, are inclined feel guilty about being suspicious. Always be suspicious, always ask questions, always protect yourself as much as possible.
I’m sure there’s more, so feel free to comment additional tips below. In the meantime, I am still looking for a roommate. Know anyone?