Do you think you that it would be easy for you to spot an online scammer? Have you received every poorly written email in the book trying to get your personal information? What if it wasn’t so simple to determine that you were being scammed? Perhaps this scammer is better educated than the usual con artists! It was bound to happen. It was inevitable that they’d eventually get smarter. How can you protect yourself? Read on to find out about my run-in with a very good con artist from South Africa and how I avoided being scammed. I must apologize in advance, for this post reads more like a short essay. It’s lengthy, but it’s important that you have all the information. For the next week or so I plan to make additional posts to this blog detailing the steps I took to catch this seemingly legitimate landlord.
The steps I used to investigate him don’t seem to be common knowledge on the web. I found nothing about these resources on any of the typical scammer sites. These resources have come together from my own research and testing, so you can be sure that at this time, this is the best, up-to-date way of catching a scammer. This information will also help you find out immediately if you are being scammed, so that you don’t waste a lot of time conversing back and forth with these idiots. Good luck and if you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.
So we’re on to a new adventure (not necessarily by choice, but we’re making the best of it). We’ve been in Germany since February, 2011. I understood that we could be here for up to three months with our entry stamp, but once we were here we started dealing with a branch of immigration who said getting a visa was not a concern at the time (we had left all of our paperwork in Egypt and had to have some friends pick it up and bring it back to the U.S., so it could be mailed to us here).
We got our paperwork in the mail in November of 2011 and tried for weeks to make a visa appointment, but could not get a hold of the woman we were instructed to deal with. Tony just went in and they told him that even though he has been here on a medical visa, there was no longer a need for his family to remain here with him. In order to rectify the situation, we all needed to leave the country for three months, return and re-apply. They gave us one month to prepare for this. They tried everything to keep us here, but there was nothing they could do. They did not penalize us fee-wise like they should have and gave us a full month, rather than five days, to make plans.
The dilemma is that if Graywyn and I leave ahead of Tony (because his medical visa does not run out until May), our three months begins when we leave. His wouldn’t begin until he left, so we decided to leave together. He is not released to travel by his doctors, who were very upset at this news and also tried everything to keep us all here. His doctor finally signed off on it, but only for him to travel by plane one to two hours (he was not happy about even allowing this). That meant that we had to pretty much stay within Europe.
We researched a lot of places and finally decided on Dublin, Ireland. We’re set to leave on Saturday, March 30th. I plan to continue to post about Germany, but will also be adding Ireland posts too. Surprisingly, I sent Tony’s resume/CV off to a lot of restaurants and landed him three interviews within two hours. So we may be there three months or longer, who knows.
In searching for short term rentals, I was faced with an array of online scams. It wasn’t so long ago in Frankfurt that I was faced with the same. The latest apartment scam (for renters) is to offer an apartment or house in a really nice area for an incredibly low price. Sometimes ads are copied directly from real ads (including pictures). Sometimes pictures are just taken from various sites across the net.
Normally I think of myself as someone who isn’t easily scammed online, but I have to say that I dealt with a new breed of South African scammers over the past couple of weeks. The scammer I dealt with was completely different than the ones I’ve seen in the past. His emails were written in perfect English (that made sense), he was not pushy, asked for a very reasonable deposit and did not bless me or tell me he’d mail me the keys after I wired him payment.
He responded to an ad that I posted on the Dublin Craigslist. He told me had an apartment in Dublin 2 on Pearse Street for 700 Euros a month, requiring a 400 Euro deposit. This was precisely in the area we wanted to be in, so I emailed him back and asked him about nearby public transportation, etc. He promptly responded, giving me a very detailed description of what was within walking distance of the area. Here was his response:
It is a two bed apartment and the refundable security deposit is EUR400.
Yes three to four months rental is okay.You will pay extra EUR35 for
The apartment is located on Pearse Street, D2 Dublin
Only a 5 minute walk to Trinity College and Dublin Tourism Centre
Grand Canal Dock Dart Station and Heuston Train Station,Connolly Train
Station and The 02 Arena are within few minutes walk
Dublin Castle, National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology and Jameson
Distillery are within short walk.
Dublin airport(DUB) is about 17 minutes drive away
I will look forward to your reply.
I emailed him immediately and asked him for a phone number so that I could call him. A short while later he emailed me that he was traveling at the moment and was heading to the United States to take care of some family matters, but that he would return in a week. He said he’d give me a call once he arrived in the U.S. in the next day or so. True to his word, he called our Skype number and left a voicemail message. Although he called when I asked him to, I missed his call by a few minutes and when I realized he had called, I attempted to return his call (yes, it was a U.S. number), but couldn’t get a hold of him. I then saw that he emailed me, saying that he was tired from his flight and was going to be getting some sleep, but would try again.
Keep in mind that we started mailing back and forth around March 1st and over the course of a couple of weeks, we exchanged some 80 emails between the two of us. I did not hear much from him, but he always answered my messages. After about a week and a half, he told me that it had taken him a bit longer in the U.S. than he had planned, but that he had returned to London and would be traveling on to Dublin soon. He also assured me that he would be in Dublin when we got there to get us into the apartment.
I asked him what we needed to do to secure the apartment and he said he needed a signed lease, which he emailed me (I’m family with leases and he emailed me a Word document, rather than copying and pasting it into the body of the email like so many scammers do; it read as a legal agreement to my eyes), and said that he only required the 400 Euro deposit and that we could take care of the rent when we got there. He said he wanted me to Western Union him the money. This, of course, was the first warning bell.
I told him that I really didn’t want to use Western Union and couldn’t I wire transfer the money directly into his bank account, but he said he didn’t feel comfortable doing that because of identity theft. I then researched apartment rental scams and found a lot of information about how much landlords are also getting scammed. At this point, I began searching all of the online scam warning sites, including scanning the lists of known scammer’s names and email addresses. I could find nothing about him. In a previous email I asked him if he could tell me more about himself and he told me that the apartment was owned by him and his wife and that they were both Irish/Canadians. When I researched his name (Kelly Kehoe), I found this to be a somewhat common name for Irish/Canadians.
The Western Union thing continued to nag at us, but by all online scammer standards, this didn’t fit the profile. He provided me with his full name and address in the UK, including a UK phone number. When I continued to argue about our reservations, he pointed out that he needed to bring his identification to collect the money and that he could only collect it in the UK (I was not convinced that this was so). The next trouble started when we tried to call his UK number. We could not get it to connect. He insisted that he was receiving calls just fine. I never got it to work and he later claimed that he tried to call me, but also could not get through.
I then began researching Ireland rental scams and found a lot of information about them. Again, his scam didn’t fit the profile. I also researched landlord/tenant rights and tried to find information about checking on the legitimacy of a landlord. I could not find anything. The only thing I could find was that landlords have to be registered and that all rental properties also need to be registered. I was able to find a list from December, 2011 of all the properties that were listed as registered rentals in Dublin. After a couple of hours scanning down the list, which was in no particular order, I found the property address he had given me and everything matched up to what he said. It was a registered rental property. That made me feel slightly better, but then I found information about a form that needs to be filled out when a tenant moves in and that a 60 Euro fee has to be paid.
I emailed him and asked him about this form. He told me it was already taken care of and to not worry about it (I even offered to pay for this with the deposit, but he did not rise to the bait). When then called the police department closest to the rental address and inquired as to whether or not there have been any recent scams for that address. We were told no and also that there was no way to check on the landlord’s name.
I then came across a website that can sometimes be used to help identify apartment rental scams. It’s a free site that allows you to upload photos from the ad into the site. The photo is then checked to see if it has been listed anywhere else on the Internet. It doesn’t search the name of the photo, but rather looks for the image itself (look for link below). I checked all of the photos he gave me after reading an article about a woman nearly falling for a scam in the UK who also used this site and discovered that the photos her scammer had sent her were from a legitimate ad on a different site. The scammer had even used the same ad description, but had lowered the price (making it nearly irresistible).
Keep in mind that this site isn’t full proof. In fact, I also loaded pictures of our own apartment, which had very recently been posted on several ad sites and the site could not find them. I was successful in finding the picture I use for my blog, Facebook, ETC, but of all the places I have this same photo posted, the site only recognized Gather.
So, I continued to research and at this point, “Kelly” told me that it was fine if we didn’t want it, he would rent it to somebody else. It was then that I decided that I needed to do some research on tracking emails. I learned that it is relatively easy to get the IP address from most email providers; all, but Gmail. Gmail apparently uses random IP addresses, making it difficult to trace it by looking at the header of the email. I ultimately did find a better way to track the email and I was successful in discovering that the emails were originating from South Africa (I will explain how I did this below). It’s a simple process and anyone can do it.
Now I began researching his UK phone number and once I did, I found that the reason the number wouldn’t work was because it was a forwarded number through a well-known service in the UK and that these numbers are very rarely used legitimately (only for some business purposes, but definitely not personal). When I looked into the U.S. number he’d called me with, I found similar information.
Next, we called the police department in Dublin back and we updated them with this new found information for their records, so that if anyone else was smart enough to check on it with them, they would at least have the information. We gave the officer the name and email address “Kelly” was using, the address of the property he was claiming he was renting and the IP address and location information from the tracker. I also submitted this information to some of the more popular scammer lists.
So that’s it. This one was particularly difficult to crack, but I wanted to share this story with those of you out there (no matter where you are), because it’s important that you know that not all the scams will be easy to spot and some of them will take a great deal of investigation on your part. The good news is that you can do this for free online if you know what to look for. The better news is that I’m more than happy and willing to share this information with you. After reading through this extremely long post, I’ve decided that it would be better to go over each step for tracking down a scammer as a post. I will work on posting this information throughout the week, so follow me to ensure you get all the information.
The scammer’s information:
Alias: Kelly Kehoe
IP Address: 188.8.131.52
Provided UK Address: 83 Larch Crescent, Hayes, Greater London UB4 9EB, UK
Actual Location: Nigeria
Provided UK Phone: +447024061786
Provided U.S. Phone: 615-732-4701
Property in Question: 45 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
Coming Up: Look for the next post: TRACKING THE IP ADDRESS OF AN EMAIL SENDER – COMING SOON!