February 29, 2012

Beware of Craigslist Scammers

If you are an apartment or a condominium renter, please beware of this email address: naturele.monique@gmail.com. She/He uses the name Laurence Poulet, Monique Poulet, Denise Poulet or Laurence Monique Poulet. That's what her/his email says anyway.

I had an email exchange from this person who "wanted" to rent our condominium in Boni, Mandaluyong City.

In the beginning, I did not have any doubts. She/He sounded legitimate. But after a few email exchanges, I had my doubts. She/He was eager to pay the rent right away without even asking much information about our condominium.

Here are her messages to me. I copied it as it is. She's not fond of using greetings or salutations.

"I am highly interested in renting this from you (referring to the ads from craigslist) so I want to know if it is still available for rent. If yes, send me more pictures of it."

I replied that it was still available and I sent her pictures. Her reply..

"Thanks for getting back to me, i am willing to rent the apartment and i am at sea at the moment as i am a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) employee in Canada but i got transfer to work and study part time down there but due to the nature of my work, phone calls making and visiting of website are restricted. I only squeezed out time to check this advert and send you an email regarding this apartment. i am ready to rent it asap so tell me how much is the rent per month and how much deposit do i have to pay."

I asked her some questions like start of rent, how long is the contract. Her reply...

"I want to start the rent on March 20th
I want to rent for 1 year or more
Yes. I will need the parking space for one car
OK. Send me the contract online so I can read and sign"


At this point, she still sounded legitimate. I quoted her the monthly rent (Php26,000). Her reply..

"am satisfied with the cost and am willing to pay for it via paypal to send me your paypal information for me to make the payment or go to www.paypal.com to create a free PayPal account if you do not have PayPal account already.
Send me the total amount to pay now. (rent + deposit)"

After this email, I got a little suspicious. She wanted to pay the whole amount (deposit and advances which is about $1850+) through paypal? I already have a paypal address so I did not click the link she gave me. And like I said, I was already suspicious. So anyway, I still went on and asked for some personal information like her full name, address and ID/passport number for the draft contract I was making. Her reply...

"I attached my passport copy here for you. I want you to send me a copy of your own ID back here."

I was surprised she gave a copy of her passport. Here's the copy she sent me.

Her full name on the passport reads: Laurence Monique Denise Poulet. What a long name! If this is not her own passport, I apologize. I am just posting the one Monique Poulet (or whoever she/he is) sent me.

Anyway, I thought...she trusted me already? She must be trustworthy as well (yeah, stupid reasoning!). So, I also scanned a copy of my passport and sent it to her together with the draft contract. I only realized later on, what a stupid thing I did. Now she has a copy of my personal information! Silly, silly me!!! The scammer replied twice...

"i have appended my signature in the contract. now i want you to send it back to me with your signature"

"OK. I will transfer the payment as soon as I get on a computer and I will send you email after the transfer is completed. In the meantime, i want you to send me the full address of the house so I can give it to the Removal Company to calculate the cost of moving my things down there."

Wow! I thought, is she really serious about renting the unit? But at the same time, my suspicions came back...Isn't she on a computer already? She has just replied to me and even if she says she's just using her mobile, she still could log on to paypal, right? So I thought of googling her email address. I also told hubby about my doubts. He told me to compare the signatures on the contract "Monique" sent me and the signature on "her" passport.

Signature on the passport

Signature on the contract

Voila! Totally different signatures! But I don't know why I still replied with: "I received the signed contract already. But I noticed a discrepancy with your signature in the passport and the one in the contract. Please let me know which is the correct one before I send it back again with my signature. Thank you."

Before she could reply, I already googled her email address and I found this from scam.com thread. I copied this one from one of the commenter there:

"One day later I receive this message from:
naturele.monique@gmail.com

Hello,
Thanks for getting back to me, i am willing to rent the apartment and i am at sea at the moment as i am a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) employee in Canada but i got transfer to work and study part time down there but due to the nature of my work, phone calls making and visiting of website are restricted. I only squeezed out time to check this advert and send you an email regarding this apartment. i am ready to rent it asap so tell me how much is the rent per month and how much deposit do i have to pay.


Very soon new mesage comes, where I am asked to set PayPal account.

For me no doubt it's FRAUD. Just for you guys to see email addresses."

For a complete conversation on the thread, please visit this link: http://www.scam.com/showthread.php?p=1142445

Monique replied right away with some lame excuse...

"I didnt even think about it. The signature in the passport was my old signature. We all were instructed to change both our signatures and password when we got cyber attack from groups of hackers. The signature I sent is the current and correct one."
To get the conversation rolling, I replied with: "Okay. I was just concerned because, for notary purposes in the Philippines, we attach the passports of both parties in the contract.
I will send you the contract with my signature later because my printer has ran out of ink."

She replied after a minute...

"Ok. I can understand. You can send it online if you have a copy of your signature in your computer or your email."

After this last message from her, I did not reply anymore. I knew already that she's scammer. I got two proofs. The signature and the one I found from the thread. I immediately changed the passwords on all my accounts.

Today, I received an email from her. She said..

"Hello,
I was just about to pay when i have this problem with the moving and shipping company, the shipping company says i will need to pay for the moving before they can ship my items, they charge me p25000 for pick up and delivery, and payments for Mover agent will be made to the corporate international headquarter in Spain. The payment is to be made through western union money transfer. I will add p25000 tomy rent deposit that i will transfer to your paypal account which you will help me to send to their corporate headquarters in Spain. I will send the funds through paypal transfer andI will email you to let you know when i am through with the payment. This can be done by visiting western union office near you office cos there is always western union office nearby, I will also include p5000 for the western union money transfer commission . I would have done it myself but i am not with enough cash here but i can transfer it from my paypal account because it is attached to my bank account.....I will appreciate your cooperation here."


So there you go. After this email, I did not reply her/him anymore. And I changed the password on all my accounts.

But my worry now is that she might use my passport and steal my identity online. I hope and pray she won't.

I have learned my lesson. Never give out your personal details and important information to people you don't know and are only dealing through the internet.

Here's a simple tip: When in doubt, google everything. You'll be thankful you did.

Hope this post helps someone, somewhere, somehow.