• May

    Scamming the Scammer: How to Get Revenge on Fraud Artists


    Since I need to find a new place to live, I’ve been looking at all sorts of rental ads. Most are legitimate, but some are actually a scam, designed to dupe the renter into forking over their money for a property they can’t even see. If you encounter this type of ad, avoid it like the plague and/or report it to the site owners (this type of fraud is rampant on Craigslist.)

    These ads will actually look authentic but if you respond to one or they respond to an ad you’ve placed, the message will initially seem innocuous. If you go further, you’ll be sent a message that talks excessively about trust, the right relationship, etc.

    You’ll likely receive a complicated application form where you’ll be asked some really strange questions. Another giveaway is poor spelling and grammar errors. Having seen a few of these exchanges, it feels like a version of the Nigerian Scam.

    The first time I encountered this scam was in Mexico, when me and my girlfriend were looking for a rental. One day I received a really strange message that really had me baffled, from someone calling himself Rev. John Tony.

    I showed the message to my girlfriend who instantly recognized it as a scam and she came up with the idea of baiting the scammer.

    A short time later, Rev. Tony sent the application form, which was filled with strange requests for information and rife with spelling and grammatical errors. I filled the form with lot of B.S. I called myself: Damien Dobles, that I lived in Hell, etc.

    I thought that would be the end of it but Rev. Tony replied and was now referring to me as Damien. At that moment it was obvious to me that my info was scraped from the form, probably using bots, and not a real human being.

    Rev. Tony gave me the address of the property, which we checked out, only to find it had a “For Sale” sign on it, which was really confusing.

    Later, I realized these scammers troll the Internet, looking for legitimate properties which they can use as part of their scam. They don’t actually own them or have any rights to them.

    After that, the stakes went up. Rev. Tony tried to get me to send money by Western Union (a favorite approach by fraud artists. If you fall for this trap, you’ll lose your money – Craigslist has extensive warnings about this type of fraud.)

    In response, I told Rev Tony that I couldn’t send money by Western Union because I lived in a small town and that service didn’t exist (I was in La Paz, a city of 200K people, but Rev. Tony never checked and fell for it).

    Since I wanted to find out who was behind this fraud, I kept pressing Rev. Tony for a different approach. I said I needed bank account numbers in order to make the transfer of funds.

    Rev. Tony stalled me for a while, but eventually, gave in. He figured he had a live one and there was no way he was willing to let that fish get away. Little did he know that I was baiting him and doing my best to trace the scam back to the source.

    Rev. Tony sent me everything I asked for, including the bank, the name on the account, everything.

    This was when I learned that Rev. John Tony was actually Lillian Hernandez, with an account at Chase Manhattan bank in Yonkers, New York.

    I immediately looked up the bank, called them and told them of the attempt at fraud. Next, I sent them the entire email trail for verification. After that I contacted the fraud division at Yahoo (the scammer had a Yahoo account).

    That did it! Lillian Hernandez, alias Reverend John Tony, vanished like a puff of smoke and I never heard from him/her again.

    After being scammed so many times over the years, this was a major victory.

    © Nathan Segal


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