Officials warn of Nigerian scam on Craigslist

AIKEN --- The FBI is advising homeowners and prospective renters in South Carolina to be wary because of a scheme that uses the online site Craigslist.

According to a warning issued Wednesday by the FBI's Columbia field office, a person identified as Nigerian is taking homes listed for sale on other public search sites and is posting them on Craigslist, stating that they are for rent and asking for up-front money.

"After the posting is listed, unsuspecting individuals contact the poster, who is Nigerian, for more information on the 'rental,' " the release states. "The Nigerian scammer will state that they had to leave the country very quickly to do missionary or contract work in Africa and were unable to rent their house before leaving, therefore they have to take care of this remotely."

The FBI warning states the Nigerian person then sends the prospective renter an application and asks for the first and last month's rent to be sent through Western Union. The renter is then told that if they qualify, the keys to the home will be sent to them.

Ultimately, victims learn the home is actually for sale and owned by someone else. By then, the victim has usually sent money to Nigeria and can't get it back. According to the FBI, the postings are being done without the consent or knowledge of Craigslist, which is aware of the scam.

Already, the release states, the scam has been carried out with residents of Charleston, Columbia and Hilton Head Island. The FBI was given information on the scam by the South Carolina Association of Realtors.

Anyone with a similar complaint to file with the FBI can do so online at www.ic3.gov.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.