Monday, 3 November 2008

You Had Me At Hair Dryer :: The Big Gumtree Western Union Money Transfer Scam

A few weeks ago, I put an advert on Gumtree looking for somewhere to live. Within 24 hours I had received two genuine responses and three obvious scam responses. I let Gumtree know about the scams, as they ask you to, but I responded to one of them anyway, as I was curious to see how exactly they were going to attempt to steal from me. I’ll copy the resulting email correspondence below, but it is kind of silly and you may not want to read it, so before I do that, I want to mention the serious part.

The serious part concerns the gross negligence of Gumtree and, more significantly, Western Union Money Transfer, in not doing a great deal to put a stop to known scams.

The main scam perpetrated on accommodation listings services such as Gumtree goes like this: fake landlords lure prospective tenants with fake properties and low rents. They explain that because they have been let down before, they need proof that the prospective tenant is not wasting their time and is actually able to afford the deposit. So they ask them to make a money transfer to a trusted friend or relative, using Western Union Money Transfer. They then ask for the receipt details so that they can track the transfer online and see that the prospective tenant does indeed have enough money to pay the rent. Then, thanks to Western Union’s horrendous, scam-friendly system, the scammer simply takes the receipt number and recipient’s name to his (or her) local branch of Western Union and is allowed to walk away with the money.

There’s a short BBC report about it here, featuring a young girl who fell for it.

So that’s what they do. And indeed, within a couple of emails, my man ‘Nick Stinson’, was trying to lead me along that path.

As you will see, I ended up communicating with my man ‘Nick Stinson’ for a good couple of weeks, and during that time I went to some considerable lengths to try and get Gumtree and Western Union to help me hoist him with his own petard.

It seems simple to me.

All Western Union would have to do is provide the prospective scammee with a fake receipt for the deposit money and then circulate details of the fake transaction to all of their agents the world over, or at least in Lagos (Scam Lake City) and wait for the scammer to pop by for his cash. Then the agent checks the receipt against their list of fake names and numbers, asks the scammer to wait a moment and surreptitiously alerts the police.


I’m sure there are logistical problems as to why it couldn’t be done immediately, but surely a system could be put in place for the future. Surely it’s possible.

Scammers put in so much time and hard work in order to steal from people, coming up with ever more ingenious methods, and the companies they exploit seem content to just sit back and take it.

Western Union are particularly bad. I sent them emails which remained unanswered. I tracked down their fraud line, a telephone number, which was similarly ignored. I sent another email, same result.

I emailed Gumtree. ‘David’ emailed back a few days later and said, ‘Thanks for your email reporting this to us. You are right to be concerned as this is a scam.’ Well, duh. ‘Please do not follow any further instructions from this person.’ I wrote back explaining that I had this scammer hanging on, waiting for a receipt number, crying out to be apprehended. Could he help? Could Western Union help? Did anyone care? ‘We take matters like this very seriously and I will use the information that you have given us to see what can be done to prevent this happening again in the future.’

Right. OK. Thanks.

I genuinely believe that when businesses like this don’t do all that is in their power to stop unscrupulous people committing criminal acts on their virtual property, then - as a result of their willful negligence - those companies should be considered complicit in the crime and should therefore have to shoulder some of the responsibility. The bastards.

The least Western Union could do is make their money pick-up system a little more robust.

Ooh, they make me seethe. I'm seething now. You should see me.

On the plus side however, it was kind of fun seeing how stupid I could be with my scammer before he realised he wasn’t going to get any money out of me. Very, as it turns out. Unfortunately I didn't get him to send me a picture of him posing with a ridiculous sign like proper scam baiters do. Ah well. Maybe next time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008, 6:44 AM

It was nice reading from you.
I work as an Engineer,currently supervising the building construction of an hotel in Edinburgh which would be finishing soon before i leave for Italy where i start my new job.
For this reason,i wont be living in the apartment,i only inherited it and haven't lived in it for too long.I wouldn't like to leave it dirty and unkept so i need clean and responsible tenant.
Apartment amenities include. Central Heating,Refrigerator,Ironing Board,Good wireless internet Connection,Washing machine,Dishwasher,Microwave Oven,Television with Built-in DVD Player,Coffee Maker,Double Sofabed in Sitting Room,Dining Area,Hairdryer just to mention a few.
Unfortunately my phone is bad and wouldn't be able to receive phone calls at the moment,so communication via email would be better at the moment,probably i could give you a call later when i get on a pay phone as am not thinking of buying a new phone here as am leaving in few weeks.
As regards the viewing,i think we could fix a date i come down for the viewing and we reach an agreement.Have been very busy with work lately so its hard for me to spare time,i would like to be more certain about your intentions before booking my plane tickets for this.
I would be staying in Italy for more than 4 years so its up to you to decide how long you want the apartment for.
Please let me know what are the things you have in many people would be occupying the apartment and for how long you want the contract to last for.
Also let me know when you intend to move in and more other details you feel necessary for me to know.
Whereabouts do you live in currently?
Pls find attached pictures of the apartment.
Waiting to read from you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:27 PM

Hi Nick

It was nice reading from you also. Thanks ever so much for the wonderfully superfluous information about your life. It was most enervating. Tell me, which hotel are you working on in Edinburgh? And when are you leaving for Italy? I'm really keen to get to know you as I feel that, if I am to be living in your property, we should be – at least on some levels – great pals.

The apartment amenities sound second to none. I'm so pleased that you have a hair dryer. Many so-called 'furnished apartments' these days overlook this essential item. Does it have attachments?

Don't worry about speaking on the phone. I'm perfectly happy to continue our correspondence via email for the moment, although obviously we will have to meet somewhere down the line.

As for my intentions toward your beautiful apartment, I would like to move in as soon as possible and ideally I would like to live there for no less than 18 months. I currently live in Peckham.

So I have a couple more questions:

1) Where is your flat exactly?


2) When can I see it? I'm very excited.

Please let me know if you need any more information from me.

Looking forward to reading from you.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 9:23 PM

SW4 7BX is the postcode,you can look it up on a map.
At this point...i can see the necessity for you to have a view of the apartment and believe me am giving this a serious consideration as i really want to let the apartment out to you.
I have on two different occasion came to London for a viewing of the apartment and later find out that my proposed tenants are not capable of making things happen..believe me some dont even have the money to pay for the deposits...they have really claimed to be so much irresponsible so far as they made me come all the way down for nothing.
Am not trying to insinuate anything only telling you this to make you more certain am serious about my intentions and that i want responsible tenants in my apartment while am away in Italy.
When i come to London for the viewing of the apartment,i would have my lawyer prepare a Tenancy Agreement so we can both have them signed and also come along with the keys if you want me just let me know.
One more thing...i would require the deposits and a months rent in advance for me to hold the apartment for you till you move in...please let me know if you okay with this.
I would also require reference from your previous landlord if you can provide one and also some kind of proof of your ability to pay me the funds when am in London before i book my flight tickets.I dont mean to be rude but i think you can understand.

Thursday, October 9, 2008 2:43 PM

Hey Nick

Thanks for getting back to me with such alacritous promptitude. It is much appreciated!

I have looked on Google maps and I have to tell you I have a very good feeling about you. Your apartment is crack bang in the middle of what property developers like to call 'The Golden Poontangle', and is pretty much my dream location. Which is to say, there is nowhere in this world I would rather live. I can't wait to see it with my eyes!

So let's get moving!

To reassure you concerning my financial bone, I can tell you that my father recently passed, and although this was obviously greatly sad on the one hand, it was also something of a godsend as he left me quite a tidy packet I can tell you. Not enough to buy a place of my own unfortunately (not in the current climate), but certainly enough to pay a healthy rent for a couple of years! I am happy to show you a copy of my bank statements, and if the flat is up to snuff, maybe even pay up to six months in advance! This would make things easier for me. Otherwise we could set up a direct debit.

I am happy to sign the Tenancy Agreement when we meet and happy to give you the deposit and rent in advance of moving in.

Before we meet however, I have just a couple of questions:

1) Would it be OK to keep a cat? I do hope so. I love cats. I'm also looking into the purchase of a trained vole. Would this be a problem?

2) How much is the rent?! I can't believe we've got so far into this discussion and I still don't know how much the flat will cost! Madness! And how much of a deposit will you require? My current landlord asked for 3 months' rent as a deposit which I can't help feel was a little extreme. Please let me know, at your earliest possible opportunity, how much money you would like me to give you.

So all that remains is for me to see the place. Let me know when you can come down and show me the flat and I will see you then. The sooner the better for me.

I'm really looking forward to reading more from you.

All the best.


Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:18 AM

Thanks for the detailed response.
Keeping a cat wouldn't be a problem.Rent goes for 1000GBP per month all bills inclusive,deposit 800GBP.I would require a month's rent and deposit.
I thought about the viewing,spoke with a colleague of mine here and he advised me to tell you if you can make a transaction with Western Union Money Transfer.The transaction can be made into your name as the receiver or your friend you can trust so when i come to London and you have viewed the apartment and we have reached all necessary can pick up the money for me at a nearby office.
Also i would have to show my boss th online transaction status...this is just to make him more certain of the urgency required for me to rush down to London from here...i must confess to you we have been very busy with work lately,so its hard to spare time for me...moreover this process also saves you from carrying lot of cash around on the day of viewing.
For your convenience,you can deduct the charges for the transaction from the total,i would take that as my own expenses.
Please dont misunderstand my intentions,am not doubting your capabilities of being able to pay me this money,am only trying to be more certain funds are available before i book my flight ticket for the viewing.
I would come along with the Tenancy Agreement and keys,you just let me know when would be convenient.
Hope you can see reasons with me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 9:42 AM

Hi Nick

Thanks for your reply. I can see reasons with you, for sure, but I'm slightly confused. I would like to see your flat some time this week. Preferably tomorrow or Tuesday. Would this be possible? If not, please tell me your earliest possible availability.



PS. What about the vole?

Sunday, October 12, 2008, 12:39 PM

Of course i can understand your situation but i want you to understand that am not asking you to pay prior to viewing the property.
Am only making a request you can make a transaction with Western Union so i can confirm funds are available before i book my flight ticket for London and also to confirm you more serious tenant this time around a have wasted my time in the past,i told you about this.
You can make the transfer to your friends name(you need not tell them its in London,anywhere in England can also be picked up in London,they dont use the receivers address) so when am in London and we have reached agreements,you can pick up the money for me at a nearby office.
For your convenience,you can deduct the charges for the transfer from the total,i would take that as my own expenses.I dont want to get involved in your bank details before we meet in person,thats why i prefer it done this way.Am very sorry for any inconvenience.
I would be traveling soon,i would so much appreciate the viewing takes place as soon as possible.
I would appreciate if you can grant my request,am very serious about this and hope things go on well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 5:00 PM

Hi Nick

I am also very serious about this. Make no mistake about that. I am still slightly confused though. Everything sounds fine and above board but I don't know where to make the transfer. You mention a friend. What friend?

Please help me help you help ourselves. Help us. If you can. Give me some details and I will do your bidding.

I am moist with anticipation. I desperately want to see this property.

I await clarification.


PS. I am assuming the vole is OK. If I get to the point of moving in and you tell me you have an anti-vole stance, I will be quite seriously miffed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:23 PM

I can understand your point.
Let me explain the transfer process clearly so you can have a better understanding.
All you need to do is look for a nearby outlet to your place online at their website and you can make the transfer of the funds to your friends name or relatives who can take the funds out for you easily after we have reached an agreement after the viewing.
I basically need to look up a valid transaction status at their website link below.
For your convenience,you can deduct the transfer charges from the total,i would take that as my own expenses.Am very sorry for any inconvenience.
Once i receive confirmation of the transaction that funds are available,i would book my flight ticket immediately and send you the details.What date would be best convenient for the viewing?

Sunday, October 12, 2008, 6:25 PM

I forgot to tell you that you need to go make the transaction at their nearest office in person with cash.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 8:17 PM

Hey Nick, you longwinded bugger you!

Let me get this straight: you want me to go to a Western Union office and transfer £1,800 to one of my friends or a member of my family. Then you will check online that the money is in there. Then you will come to London and show me your flat. Is that right?

However, I will also have to pay a transfer charge.

So I have a question. What if I then choose not to live in your flat? Will you pay me the transfer fee back?

I have another question. What's the point of me using Western Union at all? Why don't I just send you a copy of my bank statement?

And I have one last question. According to the postcode you gave me, your flat is located at 84 Clapham Park Road. Is this correct? Is it above Verso 84, the Italian restaurant there?

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

This is a very strange way to do business but if it means I get to live in my dream flat, then it will be worth it in the long run.

But we really need to get moving soon as this backwards and forwards is becoming arse-numbingly tedious.


PS. There is a branch of the Western Union literally across the street from my house, so if you answer my questions satisfactorily, I can make the transfer tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 9:03 PM

Yes you got me right.I need you to make a transfer with Western Union in your friends name,all you need do is just make them understand you sending the funds to a friend of yours in the UK as a matter of urgency.Dont worry i would re-imburse you the transfer charges on the day of viewing if you take the apartment or not,you need not to bother about that.Am sure you would definitely take the apartment.
I know this is a strange way of doing business,am very sorry to put you through all this,its cos i dont want to get involved with your bank details.
The vole is OK and you have the correct address.
Let me know.

Monday, October 13, 2008 9:06 AM

Morning, Nick

Your email last night completely put my mind at rest. The fact that you don't want to get involved with my bank details proves that you are conducting your affairs with utmost integrity. I admire that. I admire you.

So, what I did was this: I went straight across the road, marched into the Western Union office and handed over the cash.

Then you'll never guess what happened. The bloody idiot behind the counter told me that he couldn't do it because the machine was broken. So I marched back out again.

Then I had an idea. Rather than mess around with money transfer nonsense - which can obviously be quite unreliable - why don't I just bring the mountain to the horse's mouth? I understand that you're working hard in Edinburgh, and that you'd help me if you could, so I thought to hell with it!

I'm on the train!

I arrive in Edinburgh at 12.24 and I'm booked into the Hanover Hotel. I have got £2,000 in my pocket which I'm perfectly happy to give it to you as a deposit – although I will require a receipt obviously, and some proof of identity (no disrespect to you but I've had trouble before). I would also like to offer you dinner, as my guest. What time are you free? If you're not free at all tonight, I don't mind staying on a couple of days, or I can always hop in a cab and come over to your place of work.

How exciting! Hopefully see you this evening.

I'm really looking forward to meeting you.

Have a great day.


Monday, October 13, 2008 9:38 AM

I so much appreciate the seriousness you have about this issue.
Stan,i would much more prefer you find another Western Union agent in London and make the transfer as we earlier discussed cos i wont be available to speak with you in person here as am very busy.
Am very sorry for the inconvenience,but i think you should just drop by at another Western Union outlet and make the transfer.
Let me know.

Monday, October 13, 2008 9:51 AM

Hi Nick

I am pleased you appreciate the seriousness I have about this issue, but I am also slightly disappointed that you do not seem to share this seriousness.

I will be in Edinburgh in less than two hours. Surely the least you can do is meet me for ten minutes (although I am surprised you are turning down the offer of a free dinner - I'm talking slap-up three-courser in the swankiest surroundings Edinburgh has to offer here; not deep fried Mars Bars in some backstreet Leith outhouse! Are you sure you can't be swayed?)

Come now. Please don't make me come all the way to Scotland for nothing!

Let me know where you are and I can meet you. I can show you my cash, sign over the deposit and put your mind at rest. Then we can arrange the viewing in good faith.

I won't take no for an answer!

See you later!


Monday, October 13, 2008 9:51 AM

Stan,am very sorry to disappoint you but i wouldnt want to waste much of your time here in Edinburgh before we meet in person as am very busy thats why i asked you to stay in London.
If you can make the transfer today,i can come to London on Wednesday,which means i would be taking the whole day off and i think this is much more preferable for me for the viewing as you would get to see the apartment and we can sign the contract on the same day as well as me handing over the keys to you.

[The next two emails crossed each other in the virtual post...]

Monday, October 13, 2008 10:15 AM

OK....lets make it happen like this.
Firstly i wont be accepting cash from you here without you seeing the apartment but we can meet up and talk here.Probably tonight or tomorrow night.
Stan,moving about with 2000pounds in your pocket is quite risky and i hope you can see reasons with me about this so i want you to do this for me.Immediately you arrive in Edinburgh,find a nearby Western Union agent and make the transfer of the funds to be received in your name back in London.Do you understand me.
In my previous email,i told you something abot my boss...I would also need to show him a valid online transaction status of the transfer so he can give me a day off to come to London.This way we can fly back to London together on Wednesday so you can have the viewing and i can give you the keys afterwhich we can just pop in a nearby Western Union outlet to take the funds out.
Which Hotel did you say you would be staying?Dinner for tomorrow night is perfect as am very busy tonight.
I sincerely hope you can understand my situation and can make things happen for both of us.
Do you have a contact phone number i can reach you on here or would it be through email?

Monday, October 13, 2008 10:16 AM

You're very sweet, Nick, and I appreciate you looking out for me. But really, it would be more inconvenient for me to return to London now, without having seen you. So don't worry about me. I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. It really is appreciated though. Thank you.

Anyway, not to worry. Our problems are solved. If you can take the whole day off on Wednesday to fly down to London, that's perfect! I'll meet you then and fly down with you! I'm perfectly happy to spend a couple of days in Edinburgh, hanging out, eating pies and checking out the city's world-renowned happy-finish sauna industry! I can eat a lot of pies between now and Wednesday. If you know what I mean.

So that's settled then.

Shall we meet on Tuesday evening to iron out the details (dinner still a possibility!) or shall we meet on Wednesday prior to flying down to London together?

Ooh, I've just checked on Expedia and there's a flight leaving at 10am which would get us into London around 11.30. It costs around £180, but to be honest, Nick, if the flat's as good as it looks, I'd be happy to help you out with the expense.

I'll be at the Hanover if you want to chat or change your mind about dinner.

See you on Wednesday! I'm so happy!


Monday, October 13, 2008, 10:33 AM

Am happy we reaching on conclusions fast.
We can meet up tomorrow evening to talk about the details.The flight leaving for London on Wednesday 10am is OK with me.Dont worry i would cover the expenses for the both of us.
I think there is still one more thing you still dont understand here and i want us to get it settled.Besides the fact that you walking around with 2000pounds in your pocket is not safe,i would also have to make my boss understand am coming to London for something more serious this time around as have wasted my time with prospective tenants in the past,i told you this before.I would need you to make the transfer of the funds back to London in your name so i can show my boss the valid online status of the transfer and this should make him understand there is more seriousness with this so he can give me the day off on Wednesday.
Do you understand my point?

Monday, October 13, 2008 10:50 AM

Hi Nick

I've dealt with a lot of landlords and property owners over the years and to a man, they've all turned out to be the most unscrupulous, unrelentingly rapacious and downright immoral swine I've ever had the displeasure to encounter.

Finally, I am delighted to have found the exception.

Your concern for me has literally moved me to tears. One old lady on the train has asked me if I'm alright. I told her, 'I am more than alright, old lady. I am in ecstasy. I am in ecstasy because Mr Nick Stinson has restored my faith in humanity.'

So thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

And of course you are quite right. It is extremely dangerous to carry large amounts of cash around with you, particularly in Edinburgh where a man may be bludgeoned to death for his hatpin. But like I said, I am big man – almost 8 foot in height – and I have a knife.

However, as you need to convince your boss of the importance of your time off work, I am prepared to do as you say. I will be in touch again when I have transferred the money.

I'm already in Scotland by the way. Hey, it's not so bad up here! I'm just passing through Jedburgh as I speak, and a tiny village called Balamory-on-the-Tum. So quaint. There are haggis everywhere! One tried to get through the open window of the train just now but I batted it away with my fists.

Right, so I'll be in touch when I've settled into my hotel and found a Western Union.

Whereabouts are you in Edinburgh by the way? Where's this hotel you're working on? I bet it's lovely.

Can't wait to meet you. All the best.


Monday, October 13, 2008 11:14 AM

Thanks for considering my request to make my boss give me the day off work.
Its nice to hear you already in Scotland...I would be sending you an email in the eveving to let you know when i would be coming tomorrow evening.
Meanwhile i would wait to read from you today after you have made the transfer so i can show my boss.
Cant wait to meet you.

Monday, October 13, 2008 4:16 PM

Just want to drop this message to let you know i would be coming over to your Hotel tomorrow evening 7pm so we can finish our discussion.
How is everything with you?Hope you enjoying your stay here...
Have you made the transfer yet?Pls get back to me with the details so i can show my boss the valid online status of the transaction.
Waiting to read from you.

Monday, October 13, 2008 8:11 PM


My friend.

I have made the transfer. I made it in the name Balthazar Pucksniff Sprightly IV. He is my friend from pottery class. And I have the receipt here in my hand. Now all you have to do is tell me your work address and I will come and show you the receipt tomorrow, at your convenience.

Now I am off out for an exotic massage.

See you tomorrow!


Monday, October 13, 2008 8:24 PM

Its nice reading from you.
I would much more prefer me coming to your Hotel tomorrow evening as i earlier discussed with you.I would be very busy at work tomorrow so i wont be able to meet with you.
I think its best for you to provide me with the Senders name and 10 digit reference so i can show my boss the valid online status tomorrow morning so he can grant me Wednesday off work for the viewing.
Also provide me with a contact phone number i can reach you on tomorrow.

Monday, October 13, 2008 9:40 PM

Hope you enjoying your stay.Are you back at your Hotel room?
Am still waiting to read from you as regards my earlier email.

Monday, October 14, 2008 7:27 AM

Hi Nick


Edinburgh is one crazy town. I have a lot to thank you for.

After my massage last night, during which I was well serviced by two toothless Glaswegian hermaphrodites – heroin withdrawal had made them particularly feisty – I made my way to the Mint Casino. I don’t know if you know it, but they really know how to make a chap with access to a small pile of cash feel like a king.

Well, I started out on the roulette wheel but things weren’t going so well. Then I moved onto the Black Jack table. That’s when the God of Great Personal Fortune seemed to come and sit on my shoulder, pleasuring himself. It was unbelievable. I just couldn’t stop winning! Hand after hand after hand after hand left me crying out with pleasure. It was like being back in the massage parlour!

By the time I left at 4 o’clock this morning, I had made almost £75,000! Can you believe it? I’m rich! Rich, I tell you! Rich beyond my wildest dreams!

Oh, Nick, I’m so happy. And I owe it all to you. That’s why I insist on giving you half. Really. I know you won’t hear of it because you’re such a wonderful man, but I absolutely insist. It’s all upstairs in my hotel room now, but I’m going to bring £37,000 round to you just as soon as you tell me where you are. I’m going to bring it into your office and toss it up in the air and we’re going to dance beneath it, laughing and hugging and kissing.

Oh, and I have the money transfer number you need too, but you probably don’t even want that now.

I’m going upstairs for a little lie down now, but I’ll be up later. Make sure you’ve told me where you are by the time I get up, otherwise I may start to get a little angry with you. And you don’t want that.

Thanks again for making me so happy and rich. I can’t wait to see your face and rub some of this lovely money into your sweetly odious cheeks.

See you very soon,


Tuesday, October 14, 2008 8:09 AM

Stan,am happy for you.
I think the best thing you can do for me now is to provide me with the transfer details i requested for so i can have things settled with my boss this morning.I dont want you to come to my work place cos am very busy,i would come to your Hotel this evening,i told you before.
When i come,we can both drink to your success and we can fly down to London tomorrow morning.
Please try to understand my point,you just provide me with the details i requested,if you dont am very sorry i wont be able to make it down to London with you tomorrow as i wont be getting the day off.
Let me know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 11:52 AM

Stan,am still waiting to read from you.
Pls provide me with the details i requested for so i can show my boss to get tomorrow off for the viewing in London.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 5:19 PM

Hey, Nick!

Sorry about that. I really tied one on last night. I woke up just now covered in money, with a rectum like a windsock. God knows what I got up to.

So – you’re coming over to the hotel tonight, yeah? Hop in a cab and ask for the Hanover. Let’s say 7.30?

See you in a couple of hours. I’m just off down the sauna. (Strictly legit this time. More’s the pity.)

Looking forward to it.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008 5:28 PM

Am sorry i wont be able to make it down as am still at work....
Why did you refuse to send me the transaction details i asked for?
I need them to be sure if am coming to London tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 8:13 PM

Nick, this is crazy. We're in the same city. Edinburgh is about ten foot squared. I could be with you in ten minutes no matter where you are. It doesn't matter if you're still working. I won't stop you working. I'll just hand over the receipt.

I'm beginning to think you don't want to meet me. Is it because I'm ugly?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008 10:47 PM

You're really not coming then?

Well, sod you. I'm going to get the train back to London tomorrow. Do you still want the receipt number? I'm still keen to see your flat.

Let me know. It's up to you.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008 2:18 PM

Am sorry i was unable to get back to you earlier..
You caused all ths mess..I asked you to send me the transfer details so i can talk to my boss.I dont want you to come to my work place.
Are you still interested in seeing my apartment?
Just send me the valid details and i would get back to you with my flight details.
Are you still in Edinburgh?i can still come to your Hotel.
Let me know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 2:31 PM

To be honest Stan,you startng to make me believe you never made the transaction i asked you to.
Am very sorry if i sound rude but i want you to understand i didnt plan this to happen like this.
I can still make it to you Hotel today if you still in Edinburgh or preferably tomorrow morning i would fly down to London if i can get the day off tomorrow.
Pls let me know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 8:38 PM

You've really upset me, Nick.

I'm back in London.

I did make the transaction and I would still like to see your beautiful flat. The money was transferred in the name Balthazar Pucksniff Sprightly IV, and the number is 8276789026. Happy now? So when are you coming to London, you big freak?


Thursday, October 16, 2008 1:02 PM

Seriously i dont understand the meaning of this,i tried to look up the valid status of the transaction online with my boss at the website link i sent you earlier but its telling me the code you sent me is invalid.This is very embarassing for me showing my boss an invalid transaction status.
Pls let me know whats going on.Is the money still available for pick up?

Thursday, October 16, 2008 1:32 PM

Stan,am very sorry if i upset you but i want you to see reasons with me too.
Am still very much interested in renting the apartment to you.I can still make it down to London tomorrow or next(Friday or Saturday).
Pls just let me unto the valid details i asked for.I promise not to let you down.

Thursday, October 16, 2008 2:47 PM

Stan,i would appreciate a quick response.
I need to be sure if am still holding the apartment for you or not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008 3:43 PM

Don't be such a mook, Nick. I gave you the right number.

Try it again.



Friday, October 17, 2008 10:28 AM

Did you track it using the Western Union link i sent you.
Is the money still available for pick up?

Friday, October 17, 2008 10:36 AM

Preferably you can send me the scan of receipt.I think this way is better.
I just need to be sure the funds are still avgailable for pick up by
your friend.
Pls let me know.

Friday, October 17, 2008 12:29 PM

The funds are available! Why are you trying to hurt me? I'm not scanning anything though, you can go take a shit in a bread-basket.
If you don't pull your finger out soon, I'm going to come and mess up your face with my fingers.

What do you say?


Friday, October 17, 2008 2:26 PM

You stupid for what you said.
Do you think am trying to scam you.

Friday, October 17, 2008 3:36 PM

I cant believe you have been playing with my all this while.
Am a very responsible man and don't deserve this kind of treatment from you.

Friday, October 17, 2008 5:18 PM

I haven't! No! I'm so sorry you think that. Please don't think that.

Can I still scan you the receipt? Will that prove to you that I am serious?

Friday, October 17, 2008 7:51 PM

Yes that would be helpful,provided the receipt is a valid one and you havent taken the funds out.
I would call Western Union to confirm this.

Saturday, October 18, 2008, 8:53 AM

Am still waiting to read from you Stan.
I need to be sure if am holding the apartment for you or not cos i already have someone else interested.

Saturday, October 18, 2008 9:10 AM


I am in Clapham. I have just spoken to the owner of the restaurant beneath your flat and he told me that in actual fact, he owns the flat above it also.

How can this be? Is he a liar?

Put my mind at rest and I will send you the scan.

In the meantime I am still waiting for an apology.



Saturday, October 18, 2008 9:29 AM

Of course he is lying.
Pls do not waste my time.If you think you cant trust me,i think i would rather give the apartment to someone else who does.
How can you tell me someone else owns my apartment,what insult.Or are you at the wrong place?
All these is getting me worried and am not happy.Stan,pls dont waste my time.
I wouldnt want to loose other people interested in the apartment,so pls let me know your stand.
Am i coming to London to shhow you the apartment or we rather forget about all these and i move ahead.
Pls let me know as soon as possible.

Saturday, October 18, 2008 6:04 PM

Am still waiting to read from you.
No response from you would mean i should let it go.

Sunday, October 19, 2008 5:18 PM

Dear Nick

How's it going? Did you get the scan I sent?


Sunday, October 19, 2008 9:22 PM

Fuck you.

That was from him by the way, and it concluded our correspondence.

And so, another odious thief wanders off into the Nigerian sunset, free to scam another day....

I never heard back from either Gumtree or Western Union, neither of whom it seems could actually give a fuck.

Oh, and I still haven't found anywhere to live. Looks like I'm going to be stuck in Peckham till the day I die.


Question de Jour :: Have you ever been scammed? Go on, you can tell me...

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Anonymous said...

Another scam:

Young girls, under 16 I believe, leave home thinking that they are off to a better life. This dream is consolidated by the fact that her family have saved money to pay for her to leave them and have a future. Upon arrival in the UK (apparently via Russia and Spain – this route being easy access to Europe) the authorities discover that they are minors and need to be placed in foster care. However via the airport and either a home, hospital or holding pen these young girls either disappear or miraculously an apologetic Uncle appears to cart the girls away. Looking further into there records the social arm of the UK services have discovered that a single social work has “lost” 100 young girls and airport immigration has handed over 1000 girls to the same “uncle” in a year alone. There fate is prostitution.

I don’t mean to sound like I am on a soap box because I am not the soap box type. Just sharing

Anonymous said...

I went to the post office to collect a parcel today - I had to show ID and the "sorry you were out" card dealy before the Amazon goodness was mine for the taking. It is disgraceful that Western Union apparently ask for nothing more than a name and a receipt number in order to collect big fat wads of cash.

I have also been looking for somewhere to live on Gumtree and so am most grateful to you for highlighting this scam.

*looks out for Bete on Watchdog*

Anastasia said...

Never have, not with goods (but if you include internet dating, that's another story that would take ages to detail) I've had co-workers, you know, the fashionistas at work who thought they'd actually buy genuine designer bags on Ebay, to be scammed silly (I told them ten times they wouldn't buy authentic Louis Vuitton on Ebay). I had the last 'I told you so' laugh.

I'm no technophobe, but think that Western Union doesn't give a rat's testicle because they make their commission. If dodgy people want to transfer dodgy money, they use Western Union.

About living's easier to go through a real estate agency.

Hendo said...

"Thanks again for making me so happy and rich. I can’t wait to see your face and rub some of this lovely money into your sweetly odious cheeks."

Brilliantly written post (as usual) but didn't you get bored of it before the end?

The other thing that bothers me a bit, and I don't want to come over all preachy here, is this idea that in some way you and the poster are on the same level. The reality is this guy is in the shitter - Nigeria is one of the worst places to live in the world.

34% of people live below even Nigeria's own poverty line. Male life expectancy is 43. (Are you 43 yet Bete?) The country is totally reliant on oil revenue, the farmers can't keep up with an exploding population - result huge poverty and food shortages. In that situation trying to scam people from a net cafe seems almost a rational response.

But I agree with you 100% about the indolence of Western Union. But then again, maybe they shrug because there's thousands of these people doing this, and arresting half the male population of Lagos may not be a realistic option for a police force with a massive corruption and kidnapping problem.

Interesting post though.

Rhodri said...


Once I had a mortgage-related current account that had a ridiculous £20,000 overdraft facility. I never used the account. Then one day I idly checked my statement to notice that I was £12,000 in the red. They'd sent me a new debit card, but it never reached me. And I didn't know it was on its way, so I wasn't aware it had been nicked and used on a spending spree. So I ordered another debit card, and 10 days later I was called by the bank to advise me that I was now £16,000 in the red. That card had been intercepted, too. I queried all the transactions as fraudulent. They asked me if I'd like another debit card sent out to me. I told them not to bother.

Larry Teabag said...

Tremendous stuff.

With regard to the petard hoisting, it could be that your plan would constitute entrapment. But I'm no expert. Certainly it's an outrageous loophole they should close.

Anonymous said...

inspired. simply inspired...

if we could all jack the scammers, they wouldn't have time to probe the bank accounts of sweet blue-haired ladies.

i'm off to enquire about some lotto winnings...

(and no, never been financially scammed, but have granted inadvertent access to my lady-bits to an unscrupulous gentleman... does that count?)

Angela-la-la said...

Excellent stuff. Trained vole!

Ani Smith said...

That was fucking hilarious, Stan. I think I love you. Will you marry me?

Hg said...

Utterly brilliant. I managed an air of serene amusement until the toothless hermaphrodites, at which point I completely lost it and did genuinely LOL.

I am far too cynical and untrusting to have been scammed. My loss, probably. But then, if I was purer and more optimistic it could have been my loss too.

Annie said...

'..where a man may be bludgeoned to death for his hatpin. But like I said, I am big man – almost 8 foot in height – and I have a knife.'

LOLing as we speak.

As a clueless teenager, was scammed by an "extras agency" which finagled a £30 "joining fee" in return for precisely zero work - when I was signing on, and broke as broke could be, of course. Readers of Bête, learn from my error, do not pay an agency a fee, THEY are meant to pay YOU once they get you work.

Aiko said...

That was brilliant! Far more entertaining then the watchdog item they did a couple of weeks ago. You have a wonderful way with words.

Heidi said...

That was very, very funny! Thanks for the laugh...

ian said...

Gold. Pure gold.

42 said...

One Fake Apartment in Bum-F*** Who Knows Where? 1800.00

One Fake Rail ticket to the 'Burgh? 00.00

One Sleazy Scammer Offed by Brilliance? Priceless.

Well done Mssr. Bete!

Stealing is the expected, neigh, rational response to poverty in Liberia? Interesting. Silly, but interesting.

emordino said...

Magnificent. I love his persistence. The relentlessly polite "So, about this money transfer..." at the beginning of every email is hilarious.

I've never been scammed, but in my first year in college we were almost railroaded into signing a lease on a shitty apartment by the most unscrupulous of landlords. We were stupid to let it get as far as it did (although in the end we got out scot free) but he was clever about his bullying - and of course we were desperate to seem like we knew what we were doing.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

I think it is hysterical that there are some that would try to justify this scammer's scam because he is Nigerian. Someone hand that guy a mouchoir. sniff, sniff.

I'm a bleeding heart liberal and even I think he's a piece of shit. I wish there were more you could have done to make his life miserable.

LOL at his final Fuck You. you fucked him good, BdJ. well done. here's a cooky.

Anonymous said...

Internesting to read.

WU has to be restricted, if the governments don't do it - they're as guilty as the scammers.
Full Stop.

Unfortunately, support is only given by those who were affected ... like always in life.
Those not affected don't give a fucking monkey about it.

That's why humans will go down in egoism and money focused ignorance.

Does it hurt you to read this ?
Well, the truth hurts.

curlywurly said...

I bought a beautiful coat for my sister's 30th on ebay. It was a leather affair from All Saints, which had proved so popular that had sold out in stores, so I was delighted to locate it.

The jacket I received last week had a strange scratch on it, which wasn't too much of a big deal. However, I realised when trying it on that there was something in the pocket.

Yep, that'll be the security tag, which had clearly been ripped off the jacket. The back of the security tag was no longer attached, but also in the pocket (in two mauled pieces). It was clear to me that somebody had tried it on, surreptitiously removed the tag, then leeged it.

It makes my blood boil that I paid over two hundred quid for a STOLEN item. Fuckers.

Anonymous said...

I've never been scammed myself but my sister works for consumer direct and she is amazed by the amount of people who still ring her saying that they've paid a £600 processing fee to some Spanish lottery or something, and are now waiting for their winnings to arrive.

It doesn't matter how much you hear about it in the news or how unbelievable things seem, there will always be people who are so over the moon at the thought of winning £1,000,000 in a lottery they never entered that the part of the brain that says 'hang on, you didn't even enter this and why can't they take the £600 processing fee off your winnings and just send you £999,400' just switches off.

Innocent Loverboy said...

I was scammed once, but I got all the money back.

A Western Union scam was attempted on me, by someone claiming to be a girl from Russia who was desperate to marry me. Fortunately I'm not a greasy 50-year-old and was too smart to actually believe I was paying for her flight to Heathrow from Russia.

This page also gave me a little clue as to what she may have been up to.

I offered to pay for a coach from Russia to London - it would have cost about a hundred; ergo, I could have afforded that. It was almost definitely this most sincere and dedicated offer that stopped her ever sending me a fake picture again.

Eloise said...

Yeah, I been scammed. By a real live (American) conman in Mexico City. I think of myself as sceptical but actually I think I'm pretty gullible - and this guy was incredibly plausible and professional - after all he'd probably done it a hundred times before. He was very, very good at getting me involved and moving me along with his story making each step seem reasonable and not giving me time to step back and think about it. I don't want to go into the details but what still makes my blood boil was that he played on my compassion, the better part of myself (which most of the time I don't let triumph). The amount of money was relatively small, though more than I could afford at the time, so I try to think of it as a cheap-at-the-price life lesson, but actually I don't know that I wouldn't fall for a different scheme in the future - the thing about successful cons is they seem completely reasonable. I guess the lesson is to step back and think.

So yeah I feel like this guy was a piece of shit, exploiting and stealing from other people instead of earning a living. I still feel wounded by it, and I would still cheerfully bury a pickaxe in his skull. But for all that I don't think it's a clearcut moral issue... all that hendo says is true, and when it's an issue of being able to buy food, or medical care, scamming some rich foreigner doesn't seem so wrong. I wouldn't feel all that guilty stealing from a millionaire, and it's a similar economic relation. I've felt enormously personally frustrated living in a developing country and knowing I'm seen as fair game, when I know that I'm not rich at all, but on the other hand a day's work at mimimum wage for a Mexican is some fancy chocolate in the supermarket for me, if that. It's really painful to be stolen from (that happened once or twice too) or to suspect that you're being ripped off in lots of small ways, but it's also tricky to argue with it. Or at least to demonise the person doing it.

But, I thought it was awesome that you fucked with this guy's head. Ultimately it's a shitty thing to do and it feels really wrong, however many arguments you construct around it. I love both your vole and your anger. If more people got angry about stuff that doesn't affect them personally the world would be a better place... w00t, let's save the world with rage!

I do wonder why it isn't standard to restrict the pickup to a city or at least a country, i.e. London/UK rather than Lagos - I always thought you had to specify the pickup location. Scammers, like germs, evolve with the technology you use to fight them, but that would seem fairly simple. But then I guess it's not worth Western Union's while to bother overhauling their system. And I think it is sadly optimistic to think that you could get the Nigerian police to (a) give a shit, and (b) deal with it in a non-corrupt way. *Sigh*

Peter said...

Very interesting. But how do you know the person (everyone seems to assume it's a man) hails from Kenya? Maybe I missed that part.

But much more serious is your slight on the restaurants of Sunny Leith, where I've made my home for many decades. I'll have you know, sir, that some of Scotland's finest eating is to be had within the boundaries of EH6.

Unfortunately I can't supply actual names and details, as their prices are generally beyond me. But if you could just transfer a small amount of cash I could quite quickly find one suitable for your visit. Three hundred pounds should suffice.

A gay friend of mine finds good local shags on Gumtree, he tells me. You could try that, if all else fails. Lovely post.

*Couldn't make it up department:* The word verification for this comment is bling.

LaLa said...

Fucking brilliant. The same scam is running here on Gumtree in Australia.

I wish you had got a trophy photo as well though, that would have been tops.

Anonymous said...

Wow~~ I really enjoyed reading thos emails between you and the scammer and I'm so happy with the ending. I posted a flat wanted ad in gumtree couple days ago, and almost instantly I have received a similar email. At the beginning I thought wow what a great deal, but also abit of too good to be true! When I saw the photos of the claimed property, it was like from magazine or show room (but the wall socket wasn't UK standard if look closer and I know the local area so there's no such property with a view of the city..)Until he requested money to be wired via Western Union, then it really set the alarm off. I reported this to Gumtree and just got their "standard" reply, which was exactly what they replied to you! This really shocked me, Gumtree even used the template to repond so how could we believe they would take this matter seriously to prevent happening in the future?? I am really glad that someone like you have given them their own medicine to taste. Serve them right....

Bruce Mason said...

Inadvertantly ran into the same scam (and probably scammer) myself a couple of days ago. So far he's agreed that it's ok for fluffy (my baby Bengal) to live there and he's going to see if his mum will rehome a three-legged dog that Fluffy brought home. Wasn't three-legged at the time...

Haven't had this much fun since last time I spectacularly missed the toilet pan at McDonalds after a really evil curry.