Sunday, 19 May 2024

Officials warn of rental scam

NORTH COAST – People are being warned about a new Internet scam that’s affecting neighboring Mendocino County.

On Thursday, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a message on the agency's Tip-Line in regards to an Internet scam. A sheriff's office detective contacted the person who left the message and learned the following about a scam targeting potential renters.

On April 26, the caller was checking the listings for rental properties in Mendocino County, via the Craigslist Web site. The rental listing was for a three bedroom, two and a half bath, 2,300-square-foot, single-family home on 43 acres. The listing directed people who were interested to email “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,” according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s report.

The caller began to communicate with the supposed owner, James, via email. In these email communications "James" stated he was in Africa working for a charitable organization called "Go West Africa". James sent the caller a questionnaire and asked the caller to complete it and then email it back to him. The caller completed this questionnaire, which included the caller's full name, current address, monthly income, spouse's full name, occupations and telephone numbers.

James replied to the questionnaire by informing the caller they could rent the house provided they send $1,700 by Western Union to Africa ($1,200 for rent and $500 as a security deposit). James advised the caller that the residence was located at 4700 Orr Springs Road and told the caller they could check out the exterior of the home and property if they desired. James said he would not provide the caller with a key in order to see the interior of the house until after he had received the $1,700 money wire.

The caller did not send the money and began to do some research on the property.  The caller learned the home was currently listed for sale with a local real estate company and that "James" was not the first name of the property's owner.  The caller stated they were provided with two telephone numbers by James (2348027403145 or 0112348027403145) in case they wanted to speak with him in person but the numbers were never called.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is warning the public of this specific Internet scam and others of a similar nature.  Any suspicious Internet postings of this nature should be thoroughly investigated and reported to local law enforcement prior to the wiring of any money under these circumstances.

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