Nothing worthwhile ever happens quickly and easily. You achieve only as you are determined to achieve … and you keep at it until you have achieved ☼ Robert H. Lauer

Housing Scams: Beware!

CorruptHonestRecently, when hunting for summer housing in Switzerland, the strangest thing happened. I don’t completely grasp the logistics of the operation, but I may have accidentally unearthed an institution!

It started with an apartment, a perfect space to live the life I’ve always dreamed – only appropriate when about to undergo the opportunity of a lifetime; perfect job, amazing guy, beautiful city, and a romantic European chateau manifested as if on command.

“I am so happy to let you know that the apartment is still very much available for rent. Here are some important information about the apartment. The apartment is located at Rue Liotard 35, 1202 Genève, Switzerland and it just about 1.2km distance to its metro station, the apartment spacious is about 80sqm and a room is about 30sqm, restaurant and public transport all around and it’s few mins walking distance to the supermarket, so it’s located in a very nice and safe area in Genève.”

The aspiring leasee was named Raymond Muller, a supposed Belgian living in the UK. Running the online street view appeared to validate a central, desirable, location. The rent was cheap, very cheap actually, and all amenities were included.

But something seemed off: he appeared ready to place instant trust in me, with only minimal information.

“Also, I would like to put my trust in you.”

Some digging into “Raymond Muller,” fetched a loud surprise. The same listing for the dream apartment came up several times. It always targeted housing seekers in prominent European cities, and finally, appeared in an entry on scamwarners.com.

In the short duration of my posting, I received offers from several people living in the United Kingdom who just so happened to have an amazing flat in downtown Geneva they were ok with letting entirely unvested foreigners sublet.

While I cannot to speak to the origins of any another poster, Scam Warners informed me that ‘Raymond’ was actually based in Lagos, Nigeria. In general, this type of scammer preys on free listing sights such as Craigslist or Gumtree.

One key reveal,”Muller” attempted with me, is the phone trick called the +4470 switch. By listing the UK country code, followed by 70, they signify ownership by remote British companies who provide anonymous call forwarding services. Described as a “gift” to the scam artists, numbers beginning with +4470 are almost always located outside the UK.

It usually works with the scammer asking their victims to provide proof that they are not a “timewaster,” by making a money transfer through an anonymous service such as Western Union or Money Gram, where the funds can be picked up anonymously anywhere in the world. In some cases, the scammer doesn’t ask for direct payment, and instead has the hopeful sublettor transfer funds to a trusted friend or relative. They ask for the receipt of the transaction to prove they have the available funds, promising to courier the keys to the victim’s present address.

Sounds pretty safe, right?

Wrong. Using the receipt, the scammer can then go to any money transfer location with a fake ID of the recipient listed on the receipt and take the funds. Untraceable.

Did I actually fall Raymond Muller’s housing scam? Fortunately not, but many others haven’t been so lucky. In fact, after receiving the first message I used only fictitious information about myself in subsequent correspondence, until I felt I had enough to report the scam for what it was.

‘Raymond Muller’ hadn’t made an appearance for a few years, but he’s back, and I’m glad to know any future searches on his name will reveal him as exactly what he is.☼

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Categorised in: Opinion☼, Travel☼, WTF!?

14 Responses »

  1. Hi people. Be warned that Raymond Muller is alive and well and claiming to live in the Ukranie. He is back on Craigslist trying to scam more people out of their money with supposedly more flats to rent in London.
    Dont deal with him at all.

  2. Great blog you have here! Xx Marcus

  3. Hi Torrey,

    inasmuch as I quite agree with you that many such scams do originate from Nigeria, I do not deem it appropriate to categorize all such occurrences as coming from Nigerians (I refer your the title of your article, and the evidence with which you come to your conclusions about the origin of the scam); I think it is defamatory. I myself have received 4 of such mails in the past 3 days since I began searching for an apartment through craigslist. Truth is, such scams can originate from just about anywhere in the world; what I consider more important is that people learn to avoid falling victim by taking two simple precautions (among others):

    1) NEVER EVER send money (cash, check, e-transfers, or whatever) to potential ‘landlords’ until you’ve met with them and viewed the apartment yourself (preferably even pick the time to meet) and,

    2) do not give out financial information (credit card details, or bank account numbers) or any other personal identifiers like your true age (i always add or take away at least 2 years from my true age), home or work address etc, when dealing through sites like craigslist in order to avoid identity theft

    PS: none of the persons that contacted me listed a +4470 number, which goes again to my last statement that they could be anywhere in the world.

  4. Dear Yusuf Abdullah,

    Thank you for your wise comments and useful precautions.

    The origin of the scam at hand was not investigated personally by me, but rather revealed to me by the kindly folks at scamwarners.com (see link). They were very familiar with this specific individual, though they hadn’t heard of any activity coming from them within a recent timeframe. It was not until after such extensive conversation that I learned this particular scammer to be based in Lagos (Without outside help I would have been in no position to assign them an origin!).

    This in no way should imply that any and all scams share such origins, only that the specific scam addressed in this article was. Had past investigations shown “Raymond Muller” to be from any other location, this would have been addressed in the post. I agree with your recommendations and have changed the title of the Post accordingly.

    As for housing in Geneva, I recommend using an intermediary opposed to direct listing site such as Craigslist. I’ve heard excellent recommendations from UMS housing: http://www.ums.ch/welcome/

    Good Luck!

    Torrey

    • Hello again,
      I thank you for understanding my concerns and I appreciate that you’ve reworded the post’s title. Also, thanks for the housing recommendation, I’ll look into it right away. See you on the other side of the Atlantic.

  5. I am one of his victims recently.
    I planned my trip to Brussels and went to craiglist to get cheap , clean accomodation .
    Then I found his ads and I emailed him . After couple of emails he said that I need to wire 900€ by money gram which I did! And as my trip was coming , I got so anxious as I never recieved the keys as he promised while at the same I got tenant agreement signed by his lawyer in UK.
    I am pregnant 20 weeks ,ready to go to Brussels by own and thought my accomodation was settled but apperantly I was dealing with an evil .
    Such a nightmare….
    Its my first time to experience this and I don’t want to face this again I future .

  6. @Hongky land – I am incredibly sorry to hear that. I met another scam victim yesterday who lost 1500 Euro!! (a different hoax, not by Raymond Muller). With modern amenities scams can take place from virtually anywhere in the world. All that can be done for now is to keep telling your story to increase awareness.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Torrey

  7. Your style is unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.
    I appreciate you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this web site.

  8. Fortunately I did not go that far and did not send him money, but i was pretty close to so doing. This time he kindly offered his amazing apartment in center of Paris. Luckily, my friend shared with me a link to this blog. Thank you guys for warning!!!

  9. Hi,
    I have been in contact with this scammer.
    Actually my partner sent him his docs…he sent us a passport as ID so i think he will use his one to scam someone else, and this is very annoying…I’m wAiting for the instructions to pay…is it not possible catch him in some way…what police can do ? What to do now to protect the docs?

  10. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog thus i came to “return the favor”.I am
    trying to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

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