How does a rental scammer swindle money by email and booking.com? A real experience

Image source: Unsplash

If you are also searching for an apartment to rent in Brussels, watch out for personal information leakage and rental scammer! So this story is about a couple searching for a place to live in Brussels, thinking they found a great apartment, but finding out that it was a scam.

First of all, my boyfriend and I have been searching for an apartment in Brussels for a month, and like most people, finding a place to live can be tiring. We have driven more than an hour there to see the apartments and then drive back for more than an hour several times, and it ended up getting nothing. It was frustrating enough, but the worst is yet to come.

So what exactly happened? Just on an ordinary afternoon, my boyfriend received an email from what seemed to be a rental website. The content was a perfect object, a total of 82 square meters for an apartment with parking space, and what was even more surprising was that this apartment is only 750 euros per month, and even includes water, electricity, and gas. However, the owner said that he is a cardiologist has lived in London for over 10 years, so he can not show us the house, but he shared the videos of the house, which is very thoughtful. In addition, he mentioned his bad experience of getting stood up. He came back for people who wanted to see the house while the people did not show up, and he lost time and money, so he does not want to do it again. Indeed, all the explanations seem reasonable. My boyfriend was attracted by the apartment in the video, and he was very satisfied with the price and the parking space.

Below are his emails:

Sounds really nice, right? But how can this nice apartment be this cheap, especially in Brussels? Maybe it’s because there is no way for tenants to see the room before moving in? Yes, sounds very reasonable. But what exactly will the booking do, and how exactly will this work? I was very curious.

Let me say it first, I was only half-joking while telling my boyfriend that it was like a scam. I believed it in the first place. While this room was found by my boyfriend and the person contacted by him, not me, and I wanted to find the website and have a close look, I wanted to know from which website, the pictures, and how is the exact price calculated, so I search it by myself, and then I found out a very strange thing. I found the webpage for that address ( it is Rue ooo ooo, xxx 1180 Uccle, and for privacy concerns, I won’t disclose the full address) on IMMOWEB, which is a property website for renting and selling houses. However, it looks completely different from the pictures and video provided by our dear Dr. Friedrich Casares.

Below is the screenshot of photos and information provided by owner in the rental website:

Below is the video provided by Dr. Friedrich Casares:

At that moment, I was very confused. So I kept searching for more information, pictures, and other details. As I searched more, I found more and more doubts. Firstly, I checked the first email we got, there is a link to see the pictures of the apartment. I clicked in, and there are only pictures, not even any details of the place.

Below are the email we got and the pictures from the link:

It was really weird for me, and I also noticed it is an HTML address. Yes, cheap-made and easy-made webpage without amazing programming skills. Not to mention that the content of the website is only photos. It’s too much like a scam. But I still gave it a chance, so I removed the back part of the URL and then enter the rest of the URL, very surprisingly the result is an error. There is not even a proper top-level domain in this URL.

At this moment, I was 50% sure that this is a scam, but I still hadn’t found the most direct evidence. After all, as my boyfriend said, there may be two apartments for rent at this address. So I kept trying to find more clues from the first email. And then I saw the email address, which is noreply@jotform.com. The first thing I did is put jotform. com in Google search, and this is a website form builder and form creator. Interesting, it has literally nothing to do with renting an apartment. But this is still not enough for me, especially to convince my boyfriend.

Friedrich Casares is a Scammer!

Secondly, I put the whole email address in Google search, and whala, here we go. The first webpage shown is from the official website of jotform. The employee of jotform indicated that it is a spam email. Funny thing is that this question is from 2017, and now in 2022, those scammers are still using this email address to fool people.

Although I was pretty sure it was a scam, I was really enjoying being a detective, so I even search Friedrich Casares this fake name. And it was literally nothing useful, not even a Facebook profile was shown. I’d love to know who the hell came up with this pseudonym and this persona. If Friedrich Casares is a real cardiologist, how can there be absolutely no information about him/ her on the Internet, at least the papers or literature he has written, and the institution where he teaches or does research. I couldn’t help but shout in my head "Where is your logic?"

So far we got the latest email, which is in the following:

On the same day, we also got a warning email from the real rental company. Although I don’t speak French, the words phishing and victims are enough for me to understand the whole information.

Since I would like to what the scammer will do next, I will keep contacting him. Maybe I will update this story afterward, it depends on if the scammer notices I am playing with him. Or if there are any suggestions for fooling the scammer, welcome to leave a comment and let me know.

Does this story sound familiar? Then watch out, you may be falling into a scammer's trap.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lindsey

Lindsey

The more you read, the more you know.