The Country Code for Nigeria is 234

We all know about the long running Nigerian email scams, the ones where some “Prince” of some “Small Country” has cash he can’t access and wants to give you a nice cut if you can front him a couple thousand dollars via Western Union. I guess people have finally caught onto that one, because now the new big Nigerian scam is renting you a place they don’t own via Craigslist or some other source for rental listings.

A friend of mine has been looking for a reasonably priced rental in the Bay Area and sent off a few inquires to some nearly “too good to be true” listings. He recieved three practically identical emails in return, from three different “gentlemen”, with only the property address, dollar amounts and contact phone numbers differing.

They weren’t asking for cash with the first email, but required an odd rental application form to be returned for approval. The emails also had several other characteristics that smell of a farce. See for yourself.

Thanks for the email. My name is Thomas Hough the owner of the 1 Bedroom Apartment you are making inquiry of, I’ve had so many responses so far,however it is still available but I do have one person who is ahead of you. I’ll rent it to whoever puts down the deposit .Rent includes water and garbage. My company sent me overseas and will probably be between Africa, India and the UK for another year or so. The last tenants I had just moved out and my family and friends all live on the east coast so I don’t have anyone available to show the place but I can send you pictures of the inside but will have to ship you the keys and papers.

Here is the address:[property address removed]…Ready for immediate move-in!You can drive down there to take a look at it…i will be willing to rent my home out for the maximum of 5 years and below.I personally had wanted to sell the Apartment earlier on.But after long time deliberation between me and my wife Sarah we finally agreed on renting out the Home, because it was initially to be sold. But I really want you to take good care of the Apartment, as if it were your own home.I would want to know how soon you would want to move in, as I will be taking a 1 or 2 month upfront payment which mean the first and last months you will be staying in the Apartment including some utilities (Water, Internet and Garbage). I am asking for $670 1 month upfront payment and if you can pay $1340 for 2months you will be getting a 1 month rent free. I believe we should be able to help ourselves. including utilities because I want you to take a very good care of the Apartment while I am away.

i will like you to go ahead and fill out the rent application form so that will can proceed further and discuss on how to get the the keys and papers sent to you via Dhl or ups e.t.c, also are you ready to rent it now or when?.So here is the Rent Application Form Below..
========= RENT APPLICATION FORM ============

PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL

Also,Pls answer these questions below:

1)Your Full Name______________________________________
2)Present Address(where you reside now) & PhoneNumber______________________________
3)How old are you _____________________________
4)Are you married ______________________________ _____
5)How many people will be living in the Home___________________________
6)Do you have a pet _________________________________________
7)Do you have a car __________________________________________
8)Occupation _________________________________________________
9)How long are you willing to stay _________________________________________
10)When do you intend to move in _________________________________________
11)1 month Or 2 month deposit needed______________________________________
12) Pictures of all the Occupant that will stay in my Home______________________________________

Pet allowed.

I will use the information above to prepare the rental agreement , rent receipts and other documents. Make sure the correct information is type.Do reply with your both cell & Apartment number i am going to call you if your application form has been accepted or call me after filling the rental application form. A package containing the housing documents, property address with full description. Including the direction to the place and keys will be ship to you once you both agreed with the term and condition. Call me once you fill out the application form.Here is my contact number: +234-708-289-7758 or 011234-708-289-7758 i will be expecting your call to know how serious you are in renting my Home

Thanks & God Bless

Here are my redflags:

  1. Weird use of capitalization and puctuation, like with “1 Bedroom Apartment” and no spacing after commas, etc.
  2. Claiming to live overseas and having no one to show the place – Really? You’ve owned a home and don’t even know a neighbor? Haven’t heard of a property management company?
  3. “I believe we should be able to help ourselves.” – Huh? Writing generally has strange phrasing not uncommon to someone who’s not great of writing or speaking English.
  4. Weird text-based “rental application” – Most legit landlords will send a PDF version of a standard application, with questions geared so they can run a proper background or credit check. How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a car? How long are you willing to stay? Pictures of all the Occupants? – I don’t even know where to begin.
  5. Nigerian contact phone number – Um, yeah. That’s a big one.
  6. Property Address (which I removed for this post) – A quick internet search of the property address shows that this place is listed on the MLS for sale. It includes several photographs, including the exterior shot that the scammer sent with this email.
I know the Internet is a big place, filled with lots of opportunity to find what you need and solve problems. But you have to trust your instincts, pay attention and help others who might not be so savvy to look out for stuff like this.

This only happens because it’s worth it to scammer. Enough people list out their pet names, attach a family photo and don’t give a thought about how odd it is that they are potentially renting a place based on a couple photos and some guy who claims he wants you to “take care of the Apartment like it were your own Home.” Clearly, it’s lucrative enough to keep doing and that’s a real shame.

Stay safe out there and if you come across listings like this be sure to report them to the host of rental listing site so they can be removed.

October is National Cyber Security Month

Personally, I think every month should be a month people pay attention to security online, but regardless, here are some resources and blog posts to help you think about being more secure as you navigate the world online.

First, Microsoft has a whole site dedicated to online safety, don’t miss out on some tips for creating more secure passwords and using public computers.  There are even some great brochures and sheets you can print out and share at the office or with clients.

Also, check out this post by Microsoft’s Worldwide Chief Security Officer, Robert Halbheer, on “Is the online world more dangerous?” He provides a link to another great handout that addresses some myths regarding online safety.

Finally, one of the most common ways that people are exposed to online security risks is by clicking on spam.  Check out a short post on managing spam by another sysadmin that works in the trenches, The UberGeekGirl.

When it comes down to it, managing your security and safety online is not all that different from managing it everywhere else.  You already keep track of your keys and your wallet, you lock your car and your house when you leave, and you don’t leave your credit information around for people to grab.  Just do the same online – keep track of your passwords, don’t stay logged onto web services on public computers, don’t click on links that look suspicious in emails or on social networking sites and look to do business with online companies that use secure websites for transactions. 

Keep safe everyone, no matter where you are.

72 Hours of Barracuda

Before I left the office for the weekend, I installed a Barracuda Spam Firewall on the network. We’ve had nagging, random upticks in the amount of spam that was making it past the Antigen software running on our Exchange Server – even with filter updates multiple times a day. The Outlook filters were catching a lot of the additional UCE that was delivered to users, but it’s not an ideal solution. For those of us who have mobile devices, that spam was getting delivered to those devices regardless of how the desktop client handled it later.

I just checked on how the Barracuda was doing and it had blocked over 11,000 messages since Friday evening. Antigen didn’t have the most exciting reporting features without exporting things to a spreadsheet and playing around with pivot tables, so I can’t say for sure how it compares, but I was impressed. I’ll have to export some of the logs from Antigen at some point and make an official comparison.

It also allowed nearly 300 messages through, many of which were bulk mail that was tagged as such. So I’ll have to tweek that a bit tomorrow. It was just nice to have a weekend where I didn’t get spam passed through to my BlackBerry.

Hopefully people in the office will be impressed as well. I’ll let this run for another week or so and then look into turning on the end-user quarantines.