I am currently looking for a new apartment (my current being both over-priced and provided by a less than white-vested landlord—he, however, is not the topic of this post). Doing so, I stumbled upon an everything-included 65 m^2 apartment at a mere 300 Euro—not entirely unheard of, even in the middle of Cologne, but certainly a rarity where some catch could be suspected: Possibly, the location was smack on top of a discotheque? Possibly, the ad was a bait-and-switch from a dubious realtor?
No: A first electronic contact resulted in a return email, describing how the apartment’s owner, Laurentiu Marian Ganea, had to relocate to London for a few years and needed to let the apartment.
All-in-all, not entirely implausible, but with an added tale of the sole key being in London with the owner and a discrepancy in the names used, the situation remained suspect. I refrained from an early judgement, however: The great amount of detail included seemed to give the offer some realism.
Now, in a first step, I wrote a pleasing email, wanting to live up to the owner’s stated “perfect person” criterion (I would certainly be highly selective in his shoes). Within 12 minutes of sending, I received a surprisingly lengthy answer that made me very, very suspicious: The problem with the key was solved, UPS would handle this through some sort of escrow and, by all appearances, he had settled on me as his tenant. Really? Would anyone in his right mind give the key to an apartment with electronics and furniture in it to a complete stranger? Why was he not more choosy, considering that he could offer an extremely good deal, which should have had the people lined up to apply? Why did he seem to stress the benefits of quick action? Even with his relocation issues…
(Also, the UPS solution is slightly suspect, in and by it self, UPS being a not uncommon tool for fraudsters.)
Next step: See if his name was known to detective Google. It was. One page declared him the new star on the fraudster skye.
Well, as the saying goes: If it seems too good to be true…
As an aside, in the future, I will likely consult detective Google at an early stage as a matter of course. The time wasted on a failed search is shorter than that wasted on writing emails or hunting someone down on the telephone.