How To Avoid Sending Your Rental Deposit To Manti Te’o’s Girlfriend

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By now, you’ve probably heard the tale of Notre Dame star football player Manti Te’o’s “”girlfriend””. She never existed.

While it’s hard to believe that any rational, sane person could fall in love with someone who never existed, Te’o isn’t the first person to fall for such a complete fabrication. We’ve all received an email or two from a Nigerian prince in search of a trustworthy business partner willing to wire money in exchange for a future payment. We’re living in some shady cyber times- something I learned first hand a few months ago.

I was contacted by a woman who had learned of an available rental on Zillow. Turns out that the rental was actually one of my “”for sale”” listings. A con artist had pulled pictures off of my listing, written their own description, and offered the property for rent. Rather than try and explain the con, I’ve cut and pasted the con man’s scam verbatim.

First, the scammers original “”response”” email:

Thanks for your email and interest in renting my house and the quick response.I work as a missionary so we travel a lot to spread the Gospel in most part of Asia and Africa but we are presently in Africa,i came over here with my wife and we are both working in the ministry.We hope our mission will be fulfilled. We just want to make sure that our housei s rented out so that we can concentrate on our missionary work. I will like to let you know that i initially wanted to sell the house but my wife advised we rent it out to responsible people.Please i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up. So if you are ready to occupy the house kindly provide the information below so that i can forward more details about the house.I will get back to you as soon as possible.

The potential tenant responds with some basic info. The scammer goes in for the kill:

Thank you once more for your interest in renting our house,we really appreciate it.The monthly rent is $1300 while the deposit is $600 making a total of $1900 to move in. Am sure by now you must have driven by to see the house and the neighborhood. I just finished discussing with my wife regarding your interest and we are willing to rent the house to you. We will arrange to send the keys and the paperwork to you so that you can possibly occupy the house. The keys/paperwork will be delivered to you within 48 hours via courier but we want to be sure that you are willing to rent the house before we can arrange to send the keys/paperwork to you.You can pay the deposit first $600 so that we will be rest assured that you are serious about the house so we can now arrange to send the keys/paperwork to you as this will help hold the house till you are ready to move in. When is the best time to call?I will give you a call as soon as i receive your response. Once again thank you so much for your response. Await your immediate response.

The potential tenant is excited, and does a “”drive-by””. She is interested in renting, and now wants to see the inside of the home. The story is about to get fishy:

Am glad you did love the house.I am 100% sure you will love the inside just like the outside. The rooms are large enough and you will love it. So we are about to make arrangement on how to ship the keys/paperwork which will be delivered within 48 hours after you must have paid the deposit. So if you could make the deposit this weekend you will be receiving the keys by Saturday and we will also need your postal address to send the keys to. We are so glad that our house is about to be rented to you so we can now concentrate on our missionary work here in Africa.I will be expecting your response soon.

Potential tenant is now spooked, and finds my contact information on Zillow. I let her know that she is being scammed and report the incident to Zillow. Manti Te’o may be the current high profile victim of an online fraud, but it happens every day. If someone wants you to send a check prior to receiving keys, run.


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Jon Effron is widely regarded as one of the leading Realtors in Atlanta, working with both buyers and sellers throughout the metro area to maximize their real estate investments. In 2014, Jon was the #1 individual agent at Keller Williams Intown, one of the largest brokerages in Intown Atlanta. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Jon was the Vice President of Development at Tujay Group, an Atlanta real estate development firm. His career pre-real estate included stints at, eGroups (now Yahoo! Groups) and Elite Traveler magazine, where he served as the Vice President of Marketing.