Things Are Progressing!


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Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a moment to write, but I really wanted to update those of you who are following.

At first things were at a standstill due to the winter. As the weather got cold last fall, I really couldn’t paint or do much in it and then in February I moved the RV to a repair shop where it sat until recently. Unfortunately, there was no progress made. The mechanic I had working on it made a lot of promises about the RV, my Firebird and a Mitsubishi Montero I bought. It’s a long story about how ALL of my vehicles ended up in one place (I’ll save it for another blog entry) and why no progress was made. The good news is that I have people helping me who actually are making progress!

The countertop, oven and sink have been installed. The last owner actually build a new lower cabinet frame for the small kitchen area and built a wooden countertop. He was going to cover it in dark laminate and gave me the roll. I thought that was too much effort and decided to do a Stone Coat Countertop. I can only hope that my version turns out as good as the video I’m trying to copy, but this is the look I plan to go for:  LIQUID EPOXY with a paint stick. I plan to order what I need this week and I’m very excited. I’m also going to be picking up the flooring, which will be a vinyl plank in a light grey.

If you’ve been following my blog, you may have read where I make small investments each week out of my paycheck. I decided to sell the stocks I had, which wasn’t much. I’d been giving $5 here and there once a week for about a year and 3 of the 4 I was giving to were doing well. I cashed about somewhere around $950. It just so happens that I figured I need about $1,000 in things for the RV to leave, so that was very helpful and once I get moved, I will start re-investing again. In case you’re interested, I do have a referral link. You can do it for just $5 and you can control when it comes out. I had mine set up to automatically come out weekly, because I get paid weekly. I started with two and when they were doing well, I added one or two more. Here is the link: Stash Invest.

The countertop will cost about $70 for what I need to order from the site. I can get away with a sampler kit because I have such little space to cover. I believe I will have enough leftover to do the small countertop for the bathroom area too.

I have a case and a half left of the flooring already. I put the same flooring in my bathroom earlier this year and that’s what I had left. I believe I only need to purchase 2 more cases, but I will purchase 3, because it is not available locally and I have to drive about an hour to get it. I’d rather have one too many that I can either return later or keep for repairs then be one less and have all the stores be out. It will cost me about $150 to finish purchasing the flooring and since I’m buying it from Menard’s right now, I’ll get a 11% rebate.

Other things I need to purchase include a new step for the entrance, a new mattress, and curtains (I’m purchasing some curtains from Walmart and cutting them down to the right size and sewing them. I believe I can get 3 curtains out of a panel and each window needs 4 short panels. I already have one set I use in my bedroom currently, so I’ll recycle that and since there are three big windows to cover, I’ll need to buy just two more panels at about $13 each. I’ll work on something for the front windshield later on and am focusing on just the side windows. The back windows by the mattress already have shades I like and so does the doorway and the small kitchen window. I also have a divider between the bedroom and bathroom area and the rest of the RV, so for now, changing can be done behind it.)

I am keeping my fingers crossed that all of my appliances and things work. Things like the refrigerator, oven/stove, microwave, water pump, water heater and the air conditioner.

Mice chewed through the built-in power cord, so that has to be replaced, but the current mechanic was able to find a 40 foot replacement for FREE (my favorite word). Also, one of the vent covers on the roof has cracked and is broken since moving the RV and the other guy working on it was able to bring me an extra one he had for FREE also.

I have decided not to move my TVs. First of all, my 55 or 60″ TV is about 3 or 4 years old and was a cheap brand when I bought it. I think I paid $350 for it from Walmart’s website. The sound is terrible on it and last year I finally purchased a soundbar so I could hear it!! I have to move my stuff (eventually) 2200 miles. Chances are, the TVs might not make it. Smaller TVs I have in other rooms are older and heavier. I’m looking for a thin, lightweight TV that is good quality. I can buy something reasonable at Walmart and figure if I sell what I have, I can repurpose the money for a new small TV and then when I move into a house again some day, I’ll just have to buy a TV.

I rented a 10 x 20 storage building last weekend and began putting things in it. The process for emptying my house is very difficult with my 6 day a week work schedule and being the only adult working on it! My 10-year-old daughter is a huge help, but there is only so much she can do. A second adult helping would be great!

The best plan I can come up with was to pull as much garbage/throw away stuff as I could out last weekend. This week is the “bulky” pickup for my city. They only do it once a year and claim that only certain things can be picked up; however, each year everyone throws out whatever they want and they seem to take it. Now watch, this will be the year I do that and they leave most of it! We will see. So I piled my curb pretty high with stuff and paid $25 for two old couches and a baby mattress to be hauled away. I took two loads over to the storage building on Sunday and I actually can see a difference in the garage.

I wanted to have a garage sale last weekend, because it was also the big garage sale weekend for my city, but I realized much too late that I was not prepared. I was up until 1 a.m. Friday night working and could not bring myself to be up at 6 to set up a garage sale. Also, the weather had turned cold (in the 40s) and was raining and so I decided to just put it off until I am ready.

In order to make all of this work, I have to sell two vehicles AND about $1500 worth of my stuff before I leave! Ha, doesn’t really sound like it’s going to work, does it? Especially when I’m shooting for being out of here the first two weeks of June.

Worse case scenario I will have to hang around WI in the RV in order to come up with the gas money and one month’s site rental in OR, but the important thing is getting out of this house and making sure it is empty and clean for my landlord.

My goal this week is to take down the dining room table set and baker’s rack in the dining room and to move those thing into storage. I also have random things I can take now (such as a fake knight and armor – short human sized – that I have in the living room. The goal is to get anything out of the house that I’m not currently using. I’d like to get the garage and basement cleared out first, as well as use the empty dining room (once it is empty) store a pile of boxes and items ready to go to storage. I figure if I work on it a little bit each evening, I’ll see some real progress.

One massively obnoxious thing that has to be done before I move is to have help literally pulling apart the staircase leading up to the second floor where my bedroom is. When moving in, all the steps but one had to be removed in order to fit the queen box spring up the stairs. I’m not about to leave my Sterns & Foster box spring and mattress behind, so the effort will have to be repeated.

So a lot of progress is happening, but I am still so far away from being ready! I just have to keep plugging away at it. The more I do over the next two or three weeks, the less of a burden it will be when it’s time to go.

One thing I’d like to do is have my RV outfitted with about 300 watts of solar panels before I go and have the help. I don’t want to get the kind that I have to set up each time, because I am worried about theft. It’s about $300 to buy the three panels online and $15 for the mounting brackets for each panel, plus there is a handful of stuff I have to buy to hook it into the system. I’d like to be able to boondock if needed. Between the solar panels and my holding tank, it should be possible.

One other issue I ran into is that because my RV is older, my propane tank is actually built-in. Many places will not refill them if they are built-in, because they don’t realize you can. If they are built-in, I discovered, they do not have to be re-certified and can be re-filled as long as they are in good condition, so we are going to sand the rust spots off and repaint mine. I bought three cans of a primer and paint mix from Walmart this morning.

I was lucky enough to find a gas station in the same town where the RV is being stored that is willing to refill the tank for me. In the future, I will have to find another place like that or will have to get an adapter that hooks my current system up to a refillable tank like you’d use on a grill. That’s not ideal for me, so I am hoping that since I am going to an area that has a high amount of long-term RV residents, I won’t have a problem getting it filled.

The current goal is Waldport, Oregon. After a lot of research, I decided this is the place I want to go to. It’s right on the ocean and seems to have a lot of the qualities we’re looking for. I was hesitant in choosing beach life over city life (worried I’d get bored), but my dream is to be by the water and this is how I can do that.

The ultimate plan is to buy a piece of land (in about a year) that I can move my RV too and then work on putting up a tiny house. Eventually I want to build my dream house, but this is how I want to start. I’m tired of renting and at the moment, cannot get a mortgage. A lot of that may change in the next year as I reduce my bills and live a simpler life. As long as I keep the mortgage payments up on a piece of property I use as a rental and continue to make repairs on that rental, in a year I should be able to finish repairs and sell the home. I actually have equity in the house, so that would be huge in helping me achieve my dream home.

This post has been long. I thank readers who are following along and hope to have more time to blog about this experience as we go

TRACKING THE IP ADDRESS OF AN EMAIL SENDER


Have you ever wondered how to track the IP address of an email sender?  Doing so can be extremely helpful in helping to determine if someone is trying to scam you.  It’s something I’ve begun doing since attempting to both find a sublet and also find someone to sublease our apartment.

For most email addresses, you can look up the email header.  If you have a Yahoo email address, right click on the email in your Inbox.  Choose View Full Header.  What at first looks like a bunch of gibberish, will pop up in a small screen.

If you’re using Gmail, click the inverted triangle that’s displayed next to Reply.  Click Show Original.  If you use Hotmail, right click on the email and select View Message Source.

AOL uses a slightly different process.  Open the email and click the Action button at the top.  Choose View Message Source.

Once you have the full header information, you can read through it in order to find the IP address, but keep in mind that this will only work for emails other than Gmail.  For security purposes, Gmail keeps the ID of the sender confidential.  Find where it says Received: – the IP address will be listed after it.  If Received: is listed more than once, look at the last one.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking at or you don’t feel like reading through the header, you can copy and paste the information using a website that will read it for you.  Try IP Address Location  or Arul’s Tech Info.

I researched all of the above information and of course came to a dead end, because Mr. Kehoe was using a Gmail account.  That’s when I came across an awesome free site called SpyPigSpyPig makes it even easier.  Simply plug in your email address and copy and paste the subject information from the email you’re about to send and want to track into the provided space.  You now have two options.  You can either choose one of the icon pictures provided or upload your own from your computer.  If you’re going to use one of theirs, I would go with the white square, because it blends in better with the email so that the person doesn’t know you’re tracking them.  The best option is for you to use your own (a smiley face or some other small icon that looks like it is part of your email).

Once you tell it to generate your SpyPig, you’ll have 60 seconds to copy the image that it generates and put it into the body of the email.  I found that this works best if I have the email open and ready to send.  Simply right click on the SpyPig and choose Copy.  Choose a spot within the email (if it’s the white square, put it at the end), right click and select Paste.  The image will be pasted directly into the body of the email.  Click Send and wait.

Once the email is opened, SpyPig will track it.  You’ll receive a notification in your email from SpyPig letting you know that the email has been read, as well as how many times it’s been opened and the IP address of the sender.  It will also give you an approximate location and information about the sender.  If you’re worried about a scammer, this is one of the fastest ways to find out if they’re telling you the truth.

If you want to go a step further, take the IP address and search for more information on it.  You can do this by going to sites that allow you to search for information about an IP address.  UltraTools has a great selection of tracking tools and you can use their IP-Geo Location Tracking Tool for free.

When I searched for the IP address of my apartment scammer, I found a bit more specific information than SpyPig:

Continent: Africa

Country: Nigeria

Country Code: NG

Country CF: 86

Region:

State: Lagos

State Code:

State CF: 23

DMA:

MSA:

City: Lagos

Postal Code: 100002

Timezone: Greenwich Mean Time

Area Code:

City CF: 23

Latitude: 6.435127991

Longitude: 3.416063057

If you’re dealing with emails that could be potential scammers, don’t waste time emailing back and forth.  Instead, implant a SpyPig tracker into all emails that could potentially be scammers.  Now that I’ve discovered this online tool, I put one in all apartment rental related emails.  That way I don’t waste time answering questions or getting my hopes up about a potential opportunity.  I can weed out the scammers immediately.

Worried about how accurate SpyPig is?  Well, it worked on me.  Before I used it I tried it on an email to myself and it pinpointed my location exactly.  It even listed my Internet provider.  Good luck and keep checking back this week for more information about tracking down online scammers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there will be times that SpyPig doesn’t work.  For example, if one or both of you are not using an HTML-formatted email.  For the purposes of tracking Gmail messages, it worked great for me.

Coming Up:  Look for the next post:  ARE THESE APARTMENT PHOTOS LEGITIMATE?  LEARN HOW TO DO A SIMPLE ONLINE CHECK – COMING SOON!

Spotting an Online Scammer May Not Be As Easy As You Think: Read This to Learn How to Really Protect Yourself!


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: 

Hello Beth,

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
internet monthly

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.

Best,

Kelly

 

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

Email: Kelly.kk70@gmail.com

IP Address:  41.206.12.7

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! 

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