Even Beasties Can Fall Prey

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?

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6 Comments

  1. Lisa

     /  August 16, 2008

    Hello,

    I too, received an e-mail from Lucy, tonight. I didn’t accept any check’s of any sort, but did respond with an e-mail containing a bit nore info about the country setting, and my profession (nurse). Fortunately, via craigslist, nor the e-mail have I mentioned the address or street location. Then, I Googled her name out of curiosity … strange that an English and German speaker would have a name like Okuyade … sounds African … thought maybe she was South African. Nope! Found your’s and other’s reporting the e-mail as a Scam. What do you need to do or how does one report this? Thanks, Lisa

  2. Sarah

     /  August 28, 2008

    I too recieved an e-mail from Lucy. All of the info matches exactly what you wrote. I googled her name and found your blog. Thanks so much for helping expose her. Sarah in Boise

  3. melissa winkle

     /  August 28, 2008

    I too, this week (August 26) recieved the exact same letter from lucy. I went so far as to give her my work address to send the first month rent as a good faith deposit, only to recieve another letter saying her furniture and car would precede her to my home in Tucson Arizona. And would I mind being home when her things arrive, and she would mail me the rent plus the cost of shipping her stuff, then I should pay the movers. I wrote back and asked her if she wouldn’t be more comfortable paying the movers herself from her end, that that would be safer, and that she really should not trust someone she hasn’t met. Left me feeling very uneasy, so I googled her and found this posting. I was literaly sick to my stomach. I am so glad I trusted my instincts and learned my lesson before it was too late. If I can contribute to the arrest of this dispicable person, let me know how. By the way, my room is still availabe, but it is in Tucson Arizona. Just kidding. my name is Melissa

  4. Mike

     /  September 15, 2008

    Thanks for the heads up. I gave her my work address but recieved no payment yet. Fortunately I googled her name and found this along with other sites saying scam alert. She tells me she will be sending a money order, not a check so I’ll keep a watchfull eye out. thanks again.

  5. Mike

     /  September 15, 2008

    That’s crazy. Using my own intuition, I was wonder the origin of the name ‘Okuyade’ and I found your post! I got the same email you got, but never replied to it because it sounded so fishy. Good people like you help keep other good people from getting ripped off. Thank you.

  6. Karen

     /  October 14, 2008

    Ugh. And so it continues… I was just contacted by “Lucy Okuyade”. I was getting back to her to let her know that I found a roommate, but “thanks anyway” for her inquiry. Then she sent me an email back as if she thought that SHE was the roommate… (huh?). Weird. I emailed her back to let her know that I was not offering her the room. Then I got suspicious. Why so eager and persistent? This person doesn’t have my address or phone. I’m glad that I read your post (I was also looking up the surname because it sounded fishy). Creepy stuff. I wish that I could forward the email to an authority that could “sting” them, but I suppose there’s nothing that can be done (darn).

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