Spot the Scammer

I spent the last couple of weeks apartment hunting and it was a rather gruesome exercise. I wanted a place close to work so I wouldn’t have to sit in traffic every day. Unfortunately the CBD isn’t the cheapest area around so finding the “right” apartment has been difficult. I scourged Gumtree multiple times a day to no avail until one ad caught my attention. I emailed the poster and received a response soon after. In retrospect, there were so many signs in that email that screamed “scam!” that I should have been aware of, but because I was so eager on finding a place I let my hopefulness over-ride my cynicism.

1. When I opened the email, the first thing I noticed was the poor grammar. Even my mom can draft together something better than that and her English is mediocre at best.

2. He claimed to be a British citizen, yet his grammar reflected that of a 5th grader. The email was extremely detailed, yet he couldn’t be bothered to run spell-check?

3. Most scammers do a thing I like to call “emotional arbitrage”. They weave up a soppy story which normally involves death and a inheritance, and they use that as leverage. When we see something we want, we tend to over-rationalize even when at the back of our minds we know that it’s simply too good to be true. I wanted to find an apartment so badly that I wanted to believe he was genuinely doing it for his father and that maybe he really was a good guy without a profit motive.

4. The average rate for a low-end 2-bedroom apartment in that area is about R6k – R7k, yet he only asked for R4k. The email came with a set of pictures which showed a decent sized apartment with nice furnishings which would have gone for R9k in an arms-length agreement.

5. As an internet friend pointed out, the “posting the keys” part sounded like complete bullshit. The fact that he wasn’t physically present in SA and he didn’t do this via an agency just didn’t compute.

Later on, he emailed me an application form which, as before, was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. However, the author of the document was something other than the name he proclaimed to be.

He didn’t ask for money; instead, he wanted my photo and all my details. Identity theft much? Needless to say I put him on my blocked list.