News 9 confronted a con artist half way around the world Friday after a story on a Craigslist housing scam targeting Oklahomans aired on KWTV Thursday night. The investigation led the TV station to a Nigerian con artist.
The scammer in Nigeria and others are trying to get people to send them a housing deposit to rent a home they do not own. The investigation started shortly after an Oklahoma City woman tipped off News 9 about her experience.
"It's just too suspicious for me," potential victim Andree Duckworth said.
Since Duckworth called News 9, more viewers have contacted the newsroom with similar experiences. On Thursday, News 9 confirmed with a realtor that one of the targeted Oklahoma City homes is for sale and not for rent, as specified on Craigslist. The homeowner of an Edmond home, whose address was listed on the site, said the same thing.
"This is the first time I've even heard about it," the Edmond homeowner who asked not to be identified said.
Emails from scammers to their potential victims give step by step instructions for people to follow before the money is sent. It also gives an international phone number, so News 9 called 6,500 miles away to Nigeria.
A man who would not give his name answered. He told News 9's Michael Konopasek he would need to pay a $500 housing deposit via a money gram before being sent the key to his new rental home.
Internet scam expert Robin Smith from verification website WeGoLook.com says it's not uncommon for people to actually send the cash.
"People send large amounts [of cash], and they're just taken advantage of," Smith said.
Back on the phone, the scammer promised Konopasek he would be sent the key before the scammer would ever touch Konopasek's money. At that, Konopasek told the con artist who he was and asked why he was taking advantage of Oklahomans. There was no answer. Eventually, the call ended with music playing in the background.
Experts say they are seeing more of these scams right now, and people are losing anywhere from $500 to $26,000 per scam. For more information on how to identify these scams and stay protected, visit www.wegolook.com.