DISCLAIMER: I don't usually need one of these for my own blog, but this is a special case. I have permission from the friends mentioned to reproduce all the emails and images below. Also, the more this scam gets written about, the more people will be able to find it in search engines and the more people will hopefully be able to avoid this kind of nonsense without losing money! Woo all around. Don't forget to follow basic scam protections guidelines when looking for a place to rent.
tl;dr version: you can jump ahead to the CBC article about this type of scam, originally posted on February 4th, 2015
Are you old enough to remember when escrow scams were a big scary thing on eBay, which pretty much the only online marketplace at the time? Err, me neither. You might also not be familiar with common rental scams, now making a “comeback”. Please read those “airquotes” as “this has been happening non-stop since forever but it only makes the news once in a while when there’s a twist”.
A friend is shopping around for a new apartment. My brother and I have found some great places through kijiji in the past, you just have to wade through the crap to find something good. Looking to rent is never fun since there’s no point in getting an agent and it’s a lot of hours flipping through ads like “hellhole, crap, too expensive, dump, someone was clearly murdered there, if I live there I will get murdered” and “hey, that’s not bad” before you can even book a viewing. Then you call the nice lady and find out she rented out the place ages ago and never took down the ad. Arghlebargle. NOW IT’S STORY TIME!
Friend finds a nice looking place that’s surprisingly on the cheap side and asks for more details. Here’s the email he gets in return:
Thank you for your interest in my apartment located in <CITY>. The apartment is in excellent condition and it’s just like in the pictures, very clean and very well taken. Honestly from point of view I’m sure that you will rent it on spot. I’m not looking to make a business or a profit with the apartment, I’m just trying to find a good and trust person to take good care of the place. The apartment has 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom. It is furnished but if you want you can use your furniture and deposit mine in the storage unit that is located near the building not far away. The rent is 750 CAD/month with everything included (heat, hydro, water, electricity, cable and internet-full package from Rogers, 2 parking spots, laundry in-suite, washer and dryer). You will have full access to all the amenities of the building. Pets are allowed. I stayed in the apartment with my wife for 3 months. I’m a civil engineer and I work for a company that has an auction for a project in construction in London, United Kingdom, so my accommodation period in England will be about 4 years. Everything in the apartment is new so there will be no need for repairs.
Thank you and look forward hearing from you!
PS : I attached you all the pictures that I have with the apartment ( as you can see everything is in absolutely perfect condition ) .
The pictures were very nice, of course. In fact, it sure is a lot of nice for $750/month for this particular city. Heck, that would be great for a lot of smaller cities, too. Nothing too weird up there outside of this Chris guy trusting another random guy to move all his personal belongings somewhere without a care. Next email responds to a viewing request.
Thank you for your reply. As I told you before the rent for 1 month will be 750CAD and damage deposit 750CAD ( last month) with no extra fees and you will have full access to all the amenities of the building. The price will not increase for the whole period that you will stay there. I would also like to know how many people will live in the apartment and also which rental contract do you prefer- 6 months or 1 year rental contract with option of renewal. The monthly payments can be wired to my Canadian Bank Account (TD Bank) or we can setup a payment method that is suitable for both of us.
The apartment is in excellent condition, you only need to receive the keys and the contract so you could check it out, and see if you like it. Since at this moment I’m in London, United Kingdom and obviously we need a safe way to complete this deal.The solution is a worldwide third party company called Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) ,they will provide assistance in handling the payment and delivery of the rental package
We use this company to see that you are an trusting and serious person. They will provide assistance in handling the payment and delivery of the rental package . With this procedure you will be able to check the apartment before I receive the payment. Please be aware that is NOT necessary for you to register with Airbnb given that I’m a registered user for 4 years and I’ve made over 5 transactions with them so far. They are really professional and they have great services.
My phone number is <redacted> (if you are calling from Canada you may need to dial <redacted>). You can call me or e-mail anytime you wish.
Let me know if you are interested so I can provide with all the steps of this transaction . You need to know everything about this process before we get this started. I think is right for both of us.
Thank you and hope to hear from you soon!
I think it’s now a little weird, but maybe Airbnb has a feature for this these days? Friend responds that he is wholly unfamiliar with AirBnB and could use a bit of an explanation of how this is supposed to go down.
Hi again ,
This transaction is not made face to face, this is the whole reason for using Airbnb, for both of us to be 100% protected. For security and for your peace of mind I had attached an copy of my PASSPORT to see that I am very serious about everything.
Regarding the process, you will only have to deposit to Airbnb the first month of rent from contract and damage deposit 750 $ + 750 $ = 1500 $ CAD so they can proceed with the shipping, and you can receive the rental package (keys and documents). I will pay for a 2 days delivery so you will receive the keys and the contract signed by me right away. I will explain you step by step how this process will work:
1 – To start the process all I need is your full info(full name, address and a cell phone number).
2 – I will go at Airbnb to deposit the keys and the contract on your name as the intended receiver.
3 – Airbnb will check the package to see if everything is in order and also the legal papers that will come along with the keys and proof of ownership with their Real Estate Professional Department in London. They will also confirm with the building manager that I’m the legal owner of the apartment I’m renting to you.
4 – Airbnb will send you a delivery notification to let you know they have the keys and the papers in their custody. They will also send you all the payment instructions to complete the rental transaction.
5 – At this point you will have to make a money deposit on the Airbnb bank account for the amount we agreed, the total amount you shall deposit for the first month of rent ( and damage deposit ) . The payment needs to be sent within 24 hours after you receive the transaction details or else they will charge me an additional fee.
6 – After you make the deposit you will have to send the payment details to Airbnb .
7 – Airbnb will verify the transfer and if everything is in order they will start the shipping procedures using UPS or TNT Next Day Shipping Service .
8 – After you receive the package, you will go and check the apartment and in 5 days (inspection time) you must contact Airbnb to inform them if you keep the apt or not and if everything is in order you will instruct Airbnb to send me the information about the money deposit and I will be able to receive the funds. If you don`t like the apartment they will be sending the money back to you and you will send back the keys and contract. Airbnb can’t release the funds without your approval.
Let me know if you have the funds available (1500 CAD$) so we can move forward and e-mail me your full information I requested. Any further questions regarding the transaction you can call or e-mail me.
Chris is very proud of his PASSPORT. It is SERIOUS. It is also RELEVANT, so here you go:
Remember that face. I feel bad if this is some random dude that got his image used for a scam. There are a lot of people who would like to punch that face right now. Anyway, said friend asks me for advice because he really does know nothing about AirBnB. This puts him on almost the same level as me, unfortunately. I am aware of it as a service for short-term not-hotel stays aaaaand that’s about it. Well, except that I know people who use it for work and was able to ping them since something was bugging me about this setup. Hooray for Troy (and David) since I got an instant response. They were even a step ahead of where this guy was gonna go.
Troy: Big nope. Never send money unless there is a person to meet you with the keys and the money MUST go through AirBnB – never ask otherwise.
Double-checked with David since he knows this better than me. He agrees. Very suspicious. This is your standard escrow rental scam you see all over Craigslist (I saw a ton when I moved to Toronto) but using AirBnB. Pay up front and hopes AirBnB gets the money and he gets the keys. Neither will happen.
Troy sounds mighty sure of himself there, eh? Friend decided to crop out the passport image and use Google Image Search on it since “Christopher David Rasmussen” wasn’t really bringing anything. Now, one last email from my friend to me and Troy:
Troy is right, this is 100% a scam
Oh, I mean, I’m SURE this is just a coincidence
Posted: Feb 04, 2014 6:20 AM PT | Last Updated: Feb 05, 2014 8:31 PM PT
“A new scam is targeting apartment hunters, and dozens of Canadians may have been defrauded in the last few weeks, a CBC News investigation has found. The scam always involves a high-end property with a very low rent, and an owner who is overseas.”
Let’s take a quick look at the Passport photo he sent me.
Thanks a ton Troy, I owe you a beer or two.
While part of me wants my friend to email him back saying he’s gonna rent, entirely for my amusement to see what magical excuse comes up — “Airbnb is too slow/not responding, just wire me the money” or “someone hacked my account, wire me while I work on getting it back” or the classic appeal to cheapness like “Let’s save on useless fees and just deal directly!” though I almost hope it was going to be something like the old school PayPaI scam with similar letters all over — my friend has wisely decided to leave it alone. Unless good ol’ CHRIS decides to email back, then we can have some fun ;)
When my friend looked back for the original ad last week, he thought it was weird that it disappeared. He kindly figured since he was still getting emails from the rental guy, he removed the ad since he was confident one of the flood of possible renters was going to get it.
Me: do you remember what day you looked for the ad again?
Friend: Yeah, it was the 6th or so.
lmao. Amazing how that matches the CBC article going live, eh? Hopefully more people are aware now and won’t have to waste any time with the people running this scam!