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Local woman falls victim to Nigerian rental scam

Shawn Foucher • Aug 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

When someone asks you to wire cash to Nigeria, take a long pause to reflect on the request.

Hopefully, you’ll decide not to send the money. It never seems to turn out well.

A local woman may have learned this the hard way Friday afternoon after she wired a whopping $2,600 to a Nigerian who promised she could rent his Sandusky home.

The thing is, it wasn’t his home to rent.

The woman called Sandusky police at about 4:30 p.m. Friday and told her story, which police detailed in a report.

The woman said she went online to search for a home to rent, and soon found suitable three-bedroom digs in the 1900 block of E. Oldgate Road. She called the phone number listed with the ad, and a man soon called her back.

He told her she could rent the place for $700 a month, but she’d also need to provide a $600 security deposit. The woman granted that request, and she also offered to pay for another two months of rent, for an additional cost of about $1,400, according to the police report.

The woman said the man told her to send the money to Tennessee, but he then changed his request and asked her to send it to Missouri, according to the report. Finally, the man contacted the woman and told her there was an emergency — his secretary got in an accident — and he needed her to send the money to Nigeria.

He gave the hopeful buyer an address on St. Mary Street, in a place called Festactown, in Lagos, Nigeria.

The woman wired about $2,600 from the Walmart in Lorain to the location in Nigeria, according to the report. When the woman talked to the man again, he told her she would need to send him money for an additional two months of rent if she wanted to get the keys to the home.

At this point, she became suspicious. And she decided she wanted her money back.

She contacted a Vermilion attorney, who determined the Oldgate Road home had been foreclosed and was listed for a sheriff’s auction in September.

Police suspect the Nigerian scammer found the Sandusky home’s details listed online, then posted the home as available for rent. The scammer had absolutely no stake in the property, other than using it as bait to lure an unsuspecting renter.

According to the police report, the scammer even went so far as to use the name of the 80-year-old woman who previously lived in the home.

Local realtors have long warned area residents about similar scams in recent years. The scammers lure hopeful renters or buyers through online ads, enticing them to provide a down payment on a rental or purchase. Typically, the scammers only make contact by phone or online, and they ask people to wire or mail money to an address.

You should not do this, according to local experts.

Realtors have told residents they should only meet with a homeowner or landlord in-person, or through an established local company.

In this case, the police report said the scammer “acted like he wanted the money sent to him somewhere in the U.S. first, so the person(s) would not be suspicious, then changed it to Nigeria, where he must actually live”

Coincidentally, the telephone prefix for the Erie County and north central Ohio area, 419, is the same number used by the Nigerian legal system to classify some crimes involving financial or impersonation scams, according to the FBI. It’s called “419 fraud”

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