Roommate Scam

Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 8:42am

Victims are being scammed out of thousands of dollars simply by looking for a roommate on-line.

Thousands of people use the internet to successfully find new roommates, but the scammers of the world see those websites as opportunities to be exploited.

Dana and Beatrice needed a new roommate to share their dockside apartment.

Dana says "we can share this story and now other people don't have to experience it, hopefully."

Experience what? What could go wrong with an internet roommate search?

Beatrice says "I was excited, and I told Dana, 'We don't have to go months without a roommate. It'll be great!' And I received a message from someone named Erin Doty."

That's the picture. No doubt a phony. That Erin Dotty, supposedly from London, emailed to Beatrice in February. All correspondence came through emails like this.

Beatrice says "I am very friendly and quite easy to get along with. I like to have a roommate who is understanding and also trustworthy."

The light-bulb moment came when Beatrice asked for a $250 security deposit and instead, three money orders for $925 bucks each arrived from Arizona, and check out the dates.

Dana says "there was no reason to send money in these increments. It didn't make sense, and especially the dates because these were dated before we even met this person."

That's the scam, outlined on the consumer protection website, People claiming to be from outside the country, who have unexpected expenses, so they need you to send some of the deposit money back as a favor. Erin sent an email that fit that pattern almost exactly.

Beatrice says "that she wanted me to send her $1,500 of the money order back to her, to an address in the UK, because she needs to finish her financial plans, so at that time. I thought, 'Ding! Ding! I've heard of this before.'"

US Postal Inspectors say the scammer who tried to dupe these young women was probably based in Nigeria, and as crude as the attempt was, too many people, like this victim on, fall for it. She lost $22,000.

In these cases the money orders are always fake, but by the time the bank finds out it's usually too late because the victim has already sent the scammer money and that money isn't coming back. In this case, Beatrice Googled the name 'Erin Doty' and instantly found someone else who was almost victimized by the same scammer, but it doesn't matter what name is used, make sure you meet the person IN person before you agree to become roommates with them and don't send them any money at all.

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