Web scam: Pssst... wanna buy a house?

Web scammers are turning to online property forums to collect personal information about users for later attempts to swindle them out of money.

Web scammers are turning to online property forums to collect personal information about users for later attempts to swindle them out of money, according to a security researcher.

Renters and buyers often post phone numbers, instant messenger nicknames and e-mail addresses on forums along with specific descriptions of the kind of property they're looking for.

This makes it easy for scammers to write proposals that will elicit further information, said Chris Boyd, security research manager for FaceTime Communications, a security vendor.

"They basically treat these Web sites as a gold mine of information," Boyd said.

The scammers then contact the property seeker, offering them a similar property to what they have described, complete with photos, Boyd said. The potential victim is also often asked a range of other personal questions, such as their occupation, marital status and even if they have a pet.

But there's a catch: the scammer usually asks for a deposit before the seeker can see the property. The requested deposit is usually below market price, another way the scammer tries to lure the victim, Boyd said.

The e-mail pitches are similar to so-called 419 scams, which offer some greater reward in exchange for money in advance. A user on one property forum posted part of an e-mail from one scammer illustrating an unsuccessful swindle.

Reading the "header" of such an e-mail, the part of the message documenting its route over the Internet from sender to receiver, to determine who really sent it is one way to spot a scam. It is possible to fake some header information, but other parts can't be changed.

Although the property promised in this message is in the U.K, the e-mail's header reveals that it originated from an IP (Internet protocol) address belonging to Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. -- a big red flag.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?